According to a survey from Peterson’s College Data, Pennsylvania students who graduated in 2016 had the highest debt of any state and that debt increased by 2.78 percent in 2017 to $36,193. This puts Pennsylvania graduates with the highest average debt among the 50 states and Washington, D.C.
The average borrower in the U.S. graduated in 2017 with a debt of $28,288. Only about 12 percent of schools in Pennsylvania have students graduating with average debt lower than the U.S. average, according to the survey - whereas around 8 percent of public colleges and universities in Pennsylvania have students graduating with average debt lower than the U.S. average.
The Pennsylvania College of Technology has the lowest average debt, with $7,218, which was the sixth lowest average debt of any school in the U.S. In the Pittsburgh region, the school with the lowest average student debt was La Roche College at $27,298, followed by Point Park University at $27,924 and then California University of Pennsylvania at $26,242.
The Pennsylvania school with the highest average debt is Washington & Jefferson College in Washington County. The private liberal arts school had an average debt of $54,184. This was also the seventh highest average debt of any school in the country.
Large public universities in the commonwealth also didn’t fare too well in terms of graduating students with low debt. The University of Pittsburgh averaged about $38,000 of debt per graduate and Penn State University averaged about $37,000.
The majority of Pennsylvania students graduated with some sort of student debt. Schools with low-percentages of students graduating without debt include University of Pennsylvania, Haverford College, and Swarthmore College.
In the York Daily Record, Penn State officials said the methodology of the report was flawed and didn’t account for how students move between campuses on their path to completing a degree.
“This aspect of the Penn State structure is not taken into account in the report – so the figures are not accurate," Penn State officials wrote in an email to YDR. "There are a number of other problems with this report, and again we question the flawed methodology that was used to make these determinations as these figures do not align with our own calculations.”
Both Penn State and Pitt have branch campuses that extend throughout Pennsylvania. The Pitt branch campus, in cities like Johnstown, Greensburg, and Bradford, all had slightly less average debt than the Oakland campus.
Penn State branch campuses often exceeded the average debt of the Penn State University Park campus in State College. In fact, Penn State Shenango in Mercer County had the second largest average debt of any public school in the U.S., with an average debt of $45,746.
Some Pennsylvania elected officials have taken actions to protect students from large debts and provide relief to help students pay back their loans. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has filed lawsuits against Navient, one of the country’s largest private student loan companies, alleging the company conducts predatory practices.
Yes you did. By unlawfully adding $4 billion on the backs of students and their families through your predatory student loan practices, as our complaint alleges. Shameful. #Navient https://t.co/6q3iO7uri9— Josh Shapiro (@JoshShapiroPA) May 16, 2019
In March, State Sen. Lindsey Williams (D-West View) and a group of Democratic lawmakers introduced PA Student HELP (Higher Education Lending Protection), which aims to protect borrowers, reduce loan debt, and track progress in addressing the state’s debt crisis.