Georgia college students’ debt rising

Most students who graduate from a Georgia college these days get their degree, a party perhaps, and a bill detailing how much money they owe in student loans.

The average Georgia student debt is about $27,754, according to an annual report released Tuesday by the Project on Student Debt at the Institute for College Access and Success. Georgia ranked 24th nationally, the report found.

About 61 percent of Georgia students carried some debt, the report said. The report was based on data collected for the 2014-15 school year. Part of the report shows that Georgia student debt rose 73 percent between 2004 and 2014, one of the steeper increases in the nation.

The authors cautioned the numbers may be greater than their findings.

“Our state averages are based on what colleges voluntarily report about their graduates’ combined federal and private loan debt,” said co-author Diane Cheng. “Schools with high debt levels can opt out of providing data, and schools that do report may not know of all the private loans their students have.”

In Georgia, the average debt among colleges surveyed by the group was highest at Clark Atlanta University, $40,815.

» PHOTOS: Which Georgia college graduates carry the most debt?

Rebecca Wilcox graduated from Clark Atlanta this spring and has about $15,000 in student loan debt. Wilcox, who reduced her tuition costs by obtaining scholarships, said college costs are a challenge, particularly since many CAU students come from less-affluent families and are faced with higher interest loans.

Wilcox suggested the federal government decrease loan interest rates and increase opportunities to forgive loan debt, along with urging colleges to put more students on fund-raising committees.

“It’s almost unbearable if you want to get your master’s degree,” Wilcox, a student at Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School, said of student loan debt.

The Savannah College of Art and Design was a close second in Clark, at $40,718. The average debt was $22,087 at the University of Georgia, the state’s flagship university.

Nationally, average student loan debt rose by 4 percent from 2013-14 to 2014-15, to $30,100. New Hampshire had the highest average debt, $36,101, while Utah had the lowest debt, $18,873. Georgia’s average debt was higher than in the neighboring states of Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee but lower than Alabama and South Carolina.

In recent years, tuition has risen by as much as 9 percent at many of Georgia’s largest colleges, sparking widespread complaints and protests. Officials have blamed the rising costs on financial recessions, more expensive technology and an enrollment decline on some campuses. The state’s Board of Regents, which oversees Georgia’s public college and university system, in April approved a tuition freeze. Some schools still increased student fees.

Student loan debt has been an issue in the presidential race.

Republican Party nominee Donald Trump has proposed capping repayment for an affordable portion of the borrower’s income, 12.5 percent. Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton has proposed every student from a family making $85,000 a year or less will be able to go to an in-state, four-year public college or university without paying tuition.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Education

Roswell student disciplined for ‘whites only’ water fountain sign
Roswell student disciplined for ‘whites only’ water fountain sign

A Roswell High School student was disciplined after school officials said he posted signs above two hall water fountains -- one sign read “whites only” and the second said “other.”  Roswell principal Robert Shaw wrote in a letter to the school community that the Thursday incident was brought to his attention by a student...
Cobb students ask school board for leniency in walkout discipline
Cobb students ask school board for leniency in walkout discipline

Several Cobb County students who walked out of school to protest gun violence asked the school board Thursday to be lenient when doling out punishments and expressed disappointment with the district’s response to their demonstration. Neither the board nor Superintendent Chris Ragsdale, who was awarded a one-year contract extension at the same...
Few metro Atlanta students disciplined so far after walkouts
Few metro Atlanta students disciplined so far after walkouts

Five DeKalb high schoolers received a one-day suspension for continuing to demonstrate after a 17-minute Wednesday walkout to protest gun violence ended. The disciplinary action is the first punishment connected to the walkouts reported by a metro Atlanta school district. Students in Cobb and Gwinnett were warned that they would be punished for...
Gwinnett County Public Schools releases graduation schedule
Gwinnett County Public Schools releases graduation schedule

To the relief of parents throughout Gwinnett County, the school system released the schedule for graduations today. With 22 high schools, coordinating the ceremonies for the expected 12,000 graduates was no small feat. Running from May 21 to 26, the majority of the events will be at the Infinite Energy Center with the rest at the respective high schools...
Cobb’s resistance to national walkout met with student resolve
Cobb’s resistance to national walkout met with student resolve
Cobb’s stance on Wednesday’s national student walkout brought the world to its door – although that door was shut to media attempting to cover how students fared in a system that vowed punishment for participating.  Below, I share two accounts by Cobb students providing a glimpse of how the district discouraged students from...
More Stories