One in three grad schools leave students with more debt than when they started

Of the seven schools that leave graduate students with more than $100 million more in excess student loans, five are for-profit colleges.

President Joe Biden may have found more fodder to support his crusade against burdensome student loans and for-profit schools.

A new analysis by the HEA Group and Student Defense found that among the 2,707 graduate schools they investigated, more than 500 leave their students owing $1 million more in student debt than they started with five years prior.

While earnings jump by 20% on average between those with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, according to Indeed, the analysis found that students at approximately one in three schools are in a bigger financial hole than when they started.

The excess debt is due to high-interest rates and inflated program prices, according to the report, making students incapable of keeping up with their dues.

“Imagine taking out $200,000 in debt to earn a doctorate and winding up with a $75,000 salary five years after graduation,” said Michael Itzkowitz, HEA group founder and president. “That math just doesn’t work. That’s why students are racking up thousands of dollars of interest on top of their original loans. It puts them in a scary situation and, frankly, it’s completely untenable.”

The report accessed data from the Department of Education to analyze students who entered federal education loan repayment across the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years and divvied them by their graduate school. It then accumulated students’ debt and examined how much they owed five years afterward.

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Students at these seven schools owe over $100 million in excess debt

Walden University’s Doctoral degree in psychology leaves students with a median debt of more than $170,000 while their median earnings don’t even top $75,000. At Nova Southeastern, the analysis found that dentistry students make a median of $115,000, but not before taking on more than $406,000 in debt.

While most graduate schools have left their students with less than $1 million in accumulated debt, several colleges have left their students off with over $100 million. Five are for-profit colleges, further encouraging the Biden administration’s initiative to clamp down on private college bad apples.

The total number of students affected by these seven institutions is over 160,000.

Institution Type Total graduate student count Loan amount entering repayment  Total loan amount 5 years later  Additional balance owed
Walden University For-profit 42,033 $1,379 $1,668 + $289
University of Phoenix For-profit 21,238 $1,333 $1,568 + $235
Capella University For-profit 27,149 $899 $1,096 + $197
Strayer University For-profit 8,631 $647 $836 + $189
Liberty University Private, non-profit 45,361 $661 $780 + $119
Devry University For-profit 4,786 $584 $694 + $109
Nova Southeastern University Private, non-profit 14,574 $1,046 $1,155 + $109

Note about the table: Loan amount is in millions.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and Florida Gator alumnus. A graduate in journalism and communications, his beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene, and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador, and Brazil.

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