Chico State lauded for having lowest student debt of all California public universities

'It starts with outreach and education...and helping students avoid taking out more loans than they need,' says the associate VP of enrollment.

A 2021 report released by The Institute for College Access and Success revealed that among all public four-year California colleges and universities, Chico State graduates in the 2019-20 school year had the lowest total federal debt.

The results highlight the success of the university in providing its students with a valuable yet affordable college education.

According to the data, $21,125 was the average debt of graduates across the state, but Chico State graduates only had $5,732 of debt. Additionally, only 36% of Chico State students graduated with debt compared to 46% of students statewide. Part of the reason may be that the university’s Financial Aid and Scholarship Office advises students to only borrow what they need rather than the maximum amount available to them.

Jerry Ross, associate vice president of enrollment management at Chico State, said they’re proud of the work that has led to this achievement. “We take a lot of pride in helping our students navigate the financial piece of higher education so that they are good consumers and they understand what they’re getting into with student loan debt,” said Ross. “It starts with the outreach and education work that happens with our financial aid office and others on campus to help students avoid taking out more loans than they actually need.”

He also believes that colleges should be intentional in their efforts to help students leave college without having to deal with the pressures of student debt.

“We’ve worked hard to be incredibly transparent with what we give them and we’re very informative,” said Ross. “I think it’s about moving away from some of the jargon and acronyms that we use and understand but a lot of our students may not, especially if they’re first-generation. We have a high number of first-generation students at Chico State and they’re coming in without a foundation of knowledge around what all of this means, so that makes it even more important to do this work.”

Ross explains that this achievement is just the next chapter in the story for Chico State. He says that as students continue to battle with the economic factors that make pursuing a college education more difficult, such as inflation, the cost of living and the lingering effects of the pandemic, the work done at Chico State will continue to be centered around supporting its students and providing them with the knowledge and tools necessary to receive an affordable college education.

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Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a University Business staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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