Don’t Just Blame For-Profit Colleges for Exploding Grad School Debt

Last month the Center for American Progress (CAP ) reported that a short list of 20 graduate schools were responsible for 25 percent of all federal student loan borrowing. The list was dominated by for-profit colleges, with Walden University at the top and the University of Phoenix, Capella, Strayer, Grand Canyon, and Kaplan all making the cut. As many realize that graduate school debt is a big culprit in the run-up of student debt in recent years, the CAP report may lead some to believe that for-profit colleges are the problem. In reality, for-profits account for a relatively small portion of the skyrocketing levels of graduate school debt.

Consider the table below which shows various levels of federal debt incurred at graduate and professional school for students who finished a credential in 2012. The vast majority of federal student loans issued to students attending graduate and professional schools still occurs at public and private nonprofit schools.

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