Student Debt: Myths and Facts

The Second Edition of CIC's fact sheet, “Student Debt: Myths and Facts” contains new research to set the record straight by countering myths and providing facts about student debt. A number of charts and graphs accompany the key points in the presentation, which includes the following myths and facts. See the slideshow and press coverage below.
 

Myth:
Many students owe more than $100,000 when they graduate.
 
Fact:
In 2012, only 4 percent of borrowers owed $100,000 or more in student debt. The average debt level of bachelor’s degree recipients at independent colleges and universities is $19,500—less than the price of a modest automobile.
 
 

Myth:
High levels of student debt make independent colleges unaffordable.
 
Fact: 
One quarter of students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree from an independent college or university did not have any educational debt. For those who borrowed, the difference between the median debt levels for graduates of public versus independent institutions is only $4,375.
 
 

Myth:
Only wealthy families can afford to send their children to independent colleges.
 
Fact:
Independent colleges enroll students of all financial backgrounds and at about the same percentages as public institutions for low- and middle-income students.
 
 

Myth:
It is very difficult to receive financial aid at independent colleges.
 
Fact:
A larger percentage of students at independent colleges receive financial aid than students at other types of institutions. Students enrolled at independent colleges are twice as likely to receive grants from their institutions as students enrolled at public institutions (80 percent vs. 40 percent), and more than three times as likely as students at for-profit institutions (80 percent vs. 24 percent).
 
 
Myth:
Students at public institutions get more financial aid than students at independent colleges and universities.
 
Fact: 
Students at independent colleges receive three times the amount of institutional aid ($14,826) as do students at public institutions ($4,765), and five times as much as students at for-profit institutions ($2,872). Independent colleges give students nearly six times as much institutional grant aid as does the federal government.
 
 

Myth:
All students enrolled at independent colleges pay the same high tuition. (irrespective of family income).
 
Fact:
On average, the actual amount students pay at private colleges is less than 60 percent of the total cost of tuition, fees, room and board. Students with lower family incomes pay a much lower percentage of the total costs.
 
 

The presentation includes a number of other factors to consider:
  • Over the past decade, tuition and fees at public institutions have increased twice as fast as at independent institutions;
  • The graduation rates at independent colleges are much higher than those at public and for-profit institutions, even for low-income students;
  • Students at independent colleges graduate much sooner (about ten months earlier) than do their peers at public institutions and 48 months earlier than students at for-profit institutions—which means fewer years of paying tuition and a quicker start at earning a salary; and
  • Graduates of independent colleges are far less likely to default on their student loans.
Other charts and graphs in the presentation include:
 

 Press Coverage

 
 

 Contact Information

 
For questions about "Student Debt: Myths and Facts," please contact CIC Director of Research Projects Jesse Rine at jrine@cic.nche.edu or (202) 466-7230.