Report: Illinois Student Loan Debt Lower Than National Average

Report: Illinois Student Loan Debt Lower Than National Average

ILLINOIS (IRN) — New data shows that about 65 percent of college seniors carried student loan debt when they graduated in 2017, although the figures for Illinois fall below the national average.

The report from the Institute for College Access and Success ranks Illinois in the middle of the pack at No. 24 for average student debt amounts. Nationally, borrowers owed an average of $28,650, 1 percent more than in 2016.

In Illinois, the report shows that more than 61 percent of college students who graduated in 2017 had student loan debt. That’s compared with 65 percent nationwide.

Illinois tries to help students avoid loan debt with investment aid, Illinois Student Assistance Commission Managing Director of Communications Lynne Baker said.

“Illinois actually educates and graduates more lower-income students than surrounding states and our students carry about the same debt levels as surrounding states,” Baker said. “While we may have some higher sticker prices for colleges than other states, we do make a significant investment in need-based aid.”

That aid comes in the form of grants such as the Monetary Award Program (MAP) and other programs. Baker said more needs to be done.

“Increasing funding for some of our need-based programs like Monetary Award Program (MAP) is a start,” Baker said. “There’s also a new grant program called the Aim High grant program.”

Illinois’ taxpayer-funded schools have been questioned over the cost of tuition. According to state data, some universities have increased tuition by more than 50 percent since 2008. Seeing flagging enrollment and growing graduate debt, some schools have frozen tuition. At the same time, nearby universities – like the University of Missouri – are recruiting Illinois high schoolers by touting lower costs.

“For the class of 2017, that average amount of debt in Illinois was about $29,214,” Baker said.

Illinois’ public institutions have been experiencing a brain-drain of sorts in recent years. In 2016, a year before the study’s data, nearly half of graduating high school students in Illinois that decided to attend a four-year institution did so out of state.

Connecticut had the highest average student debt at more than $38,000, while Utah has the lowest at just over $18,000.