University ranked highest in Ohio for student loan debt


Calculating the cost of college education

Reporter and Reporter

Average student debt per student for the year was $31,515.

The University’s average student loan debt was the highest of all public universities in the state in 2010 and eleventh highest nationwide, according to a November 2011 report published by the Project on Student Debt.

Public universities were listed separate from private universities, which do not receive public funding and tend to have higher average debts. Ohio ranked seventh highest nationally.

Joseph Frizado, vice provost for Academic Operations and Assessment, said the figures can be misleading. While Ohio may be seventh in the nation for average student debt, the state also has lower levels of state support, a direct correlation between state support and level of average student loan debt, Frizado said.

With state support low, students have to rely on federal support for financial assistance. To explain the University’s high ranking in the state, Frizado said University students’ typical demographic means their families often have incomes too high for students to be eligible for federal grants, but too little to be able to fund tuition out-of-pocket.

“The students come in and the family doesn’t have a tremendous income, but it’s enough to kind of push you out of the federal grant programs,” he said. “So then you start looking at institutional grants and federal loans.”

Though University officials are concerned about the report’s data, Frizado said the biggest concern is ensuring students graduate, which influences their ability to pay off loans. While ranking high in terms of average student loan debt, Frizado said the University’s graduates’ loan default rates relative to other universities are about two percent lower than the national average.

“I’m much more concerned about the student who comes to the University, racks up a large debt and doesn’t complete the degree. … That’s the real disgrace,” he said. “That 2% has been over the last seven, eight or ten years – it’s a constant parameter. … BGSU students are a very good loan risk, and most of that comes back to: you get a degree, you have a shot at getting a job, you can have a career – you can make this work.”

To explain that University students have a high rate of graduation success, Frizado cited figures from an October 2011 report by the Business Alliance for Higher Education and the Economy, based on data from the U.S. News and World Report.

The report took the percentage of enrollees at universities in a given class predicted to successfully graduate- based on factors such as high school class ranks, ACT scores, and family incomes,- and weighed these predictions against actual graduation statistics for that class.

Once compared, percentage differences in the numbers that actually graduate versus those that were expected to, were calculated. University students graduated with a success 14 percent rate higher than predictions ranking the University third among 194 other universities nationally, according to the report.

“So what they’re saying is 14 percent of our graduates shouldn’t have made it, but did,” Frizado said. “BGSU takes … a substantial portion of at-risk students, middle-of-the-road students. The important thing about that is they graduate. We get you through.”

Associate Director of Client Services and Scholarships, Erik Bucks, said there are different repayment options and even loan forgiveness options for students who graduate in fields paying lower than others, particularly in areas such as public service. He strongly encourages graduated students concerned about how they will be able to repay their loans to contact the financial aid office and discuss these different solutions.

“Students within the federal loan programs have repayment options out there,” he said. “If students have questions about borrowing for school or repayment, have them speak to someone in the financial aid office or one of our counselors. … We want them to feel like they made wise choices.”