Which Texas college’s grads have the most debt?

UT students on campus (KXAN Photo)
UT students on campus (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — New research from a loan resource group shows just how much debt Texas college students take with them along with their diplomas.

The report from LendEDU, which provides information and resources to help students find and refinance private loans, ranks the state 37th overall in average student debt in the nation, with a typical student racking up $26,236 by the end of school. Compare that to the nationwide average of $27,975 per student.

Baylor University has the highest per-borrower average, the report finds, at $44,540. Texas Southern University ranks second with an average of $44,540; and at $39,883, St. Mary’s University is third on the list of highest average debt in Texas.

It’s further confirmation that diplomas don’t come cheap. Megan Mayfield, a recent graduate of the University of Texas at Austin is still paying for hers — about $38,000 total.

“Honestly,” she said, “without the help of those loans, I don’t think I would have been able to finish school as quickly as I did,” despite having scholarships, grants, and help from her parents as well.

Mayfield’s debt load is on the high end for UT according to the LendEDU study, which at an average of $25,338 in debt per student ranks 33rd in Texas and 845th in the country. One reason, the university said, is that they work to help people graduate in four years.

“If you stay in school an extra year,” UT spokesman J.B. Bird said, “chances are you’re going to add quite a bit of money to your expense.”

Just ask current UT student Charlie Bray.

“Originally I was supposed to be the class of 2017,” he said. The economics major has an extra semester to go, and his parents had to take a loan out specifically for that expense. “Definitely compared to when my parents were here at UT it’s gotten a lot more expensive.”

Financial planners say students can reduce the cost by knocking out some credits in high school or at community colleges and, frankly, by choosing a college they can afford to pay off with what they make in the profession they’re studying to enter.

One financial planner offered this tip: When deciding where to attend college, find one where the student can pay for a third of the cost each year — whether that’s with scholarships or a job — and parents can pay for another third. That leaves just the final third of the total cost to make up for with loans.

Mayfield, the recent graduate, takes advantage of another pro tip: income-based repayment plans.

“But even still,” she said, “it can be a bit much on my budget.”

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