EPI's weekly illustration of education data trends — April 26, 2017

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How Many College Students Borrow and Have Loan Debt?


A new publication by Jennie Woo and Erin Dunlop Venez at RTI (for NCES) shows that 72 percent of 2007-08 BA recipients (graduates) had borrowed to support their education (next week's EPIGraph will look at level of debt). Further analysis breaks down borrowing practices by level of degree (below).

Common thought suggests people who complete lower levels of education similarly borrow at lower rates when compared to other students. These data dispute that theory. As can be seen in the graphic below, students who receive a certificate (73 percent) borrow at similar rates to those who graduate with AAs/BAs (76 percent), and Masters degrees (79 percent). And while there is quite an upward blip for professional doctorates (e.g., J.D., M.D.), with a 90 percent borrowing rate, only 60 percent of those who complete an academic doctorate (e.g., Ph.D., Ed.D.) take out student loans to support their education.

When surveyed four years later, most of borrowers still owed student debt. Two thirds (67 percent) of certificate students owed, compared to 70 percent of AA/BAs, 71 percent of Master's students, 54 percent of academic doctorates, and 84 percent of professional doctorates.

SOURCE: Venez, Erin Dunlop, and Woo, Jennie H. (April, 2017). The Debt Burden of Bachelor’s Degree Recipients. Stats in Brief. Washington, DC: US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2008/12 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study, B&B:08/12).