Pa. ranked No. 2 nationwide in student debt, new report finds | Tuesday Morning Coffee

July 16, 2019 7:08 am

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

So we were in Target over the weekend, where our First Born recoiled at the new display of school supplies.

Like her, we agreed that the second week of July is a tad early to start thinking about new binders and pens and notebook paper, when, really, your thoughts should extend no farther than the distance between your beach chair and the surf — or the pool.

But while there’s still weeks to go before classes begin for another year, families across Pennsylvania, and nationwide, are sweating the college tuition payments that their rising freshman will start making with clockwork regularity for the next four years.

And those freshmen are no doubt sweating the loan payments that many of them may be making years after someone hands them a slip of parchment paper and tells them they’re done with their undergraduate education.

In 2016, the average Pennsylvania student left college carrying $35,185 in debt. And 69 percent of students would graduate owing money, according to a PennLive analysis at the time.

We don’t want to point any fingers, but the fact that, in Penn State University, the Keystone State is home to the most expensive flagship public university in the country, might have something to do with that.

But Happy Valley is hardly an outlier when it comes to runaway tuition. In 2014, the University of Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania College of Technology joined Penn State on the list of the 10 most expensive public institutions in the country, according to Business Insider.

Old Main at Penn State (Flickr Commons)

So given those dubious distinctions, perhaps it’s not too surprising that Pennsylvania ranks second in the nation this year for states with the most student debt.

That analysis, by the financial literacy site, WalletHub, “compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 12 key metrics. The data set ranges from average student debt to unemployment rate among the population aged 25 to 34 to share of students with past-due loan balances.”

Here’s how Pennsylvania broke down (Here, 1=Most, 25=Average)

  • 2nd – Avg. Student Debt
  • 5th – Proportion of Students with Debt
  • 12th – Student Debt as % of Income (Adjusted for Cost of Living)
  • 8th – Unemployment Rate of Population Aged 25 to 34
  • 25th –  Percentage of Student Loans Past Due or in Default
  • 11th – Percentage of Student-Loan Borrowers Aged 50+
  • 29th – Availability of Student Jobs
  • 7th – Availability of Paid Internships
  • 20th – Grant Growth

From WalletHub, here are the five states with the most debt:

1. South Dakota
2. Pennsylvania
3. West Virginia
4. New Hampshire
5. Iowa

And these are the five states with the least student debt:

1. Utah
2. Hawaii
3. California
4. Wyoming
5. Washington

Mouse over the map below for state-by-state results.

Source: WalletHub

WalletHub checked in with Robert Springall, the VP of Enrollment Management at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, to ask him for debt management and loan tips. Here’s what he had to say for himself:

Q: What are your tips for students who want to to minimize the amount of debt they take out for their higher education?

Springall:  “While you’re thinking about minimizing your student debt, also think about what you can do during college to make sure you can pay it back. The most important thing you can do is graduate and graduate on-time. Whether you are going for a certificate, a two-year degree, or a four-year degree, the best way to put your college experience to work is to finish.”A college that invests in your success will offer you access to an academic advisor, who can be very helpful in guiding you through your program. Use that person to make sure you stay on track by both choosing your courses wisely and getting help to succeed in class and get all the way to graduation.”

Q: How should students and their parents think about the return on investment to spending on higher education?

Springall: “I often hear the question, “Do your graduates get jobs?” Why, yes, they do. I would encourage families to think a little more broadly, though. Perhaps by asking:

  • Will this place inspire me to do my best?
  • Who will I turn to when I have questions?
  • What resources are available to help me prepare for life after college, whether that’s a job, graduate or professional school, or another path?
  • To that end, do the faculty seem invested in students’ after-college success?
  • And what are the college’s graduates doing 15, 20, and 25 years after graduation?

“And it’s in getting answers to that last question where families hear about some of the interesting pathways to success that really explain what a college can do to launch their graduates.

“Some of the most interesting careers start not with a dream job, but one opportunity that leads to another and then another. Focusing on only the first job after college misses the benefit of gaining experience and building networks that can pay much greater dividends in the future.”

WikiMedia Commons

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.