Nov 28, 2018
It’s a surprising trend and a bit of a well-kept secret. Even as the nation’s average student loan debt has steadily climbed, it’s actually been going down for students at Humboldt State University.
A recent analysis by HSU’s Office of Financial Aid found the average debt for an HSU student who graduated with a bachelor’s degree has dropped from $20,982 in 2008-09 to $12,743 in 2017-18.
Meanwhile, the opposite trend has been underway across the nation and in California.
In 2016-17, the national average debt of students who earned bachelor’s degrees was $28,350, the state average was $22,744 and within the California State University system—where tuition remained steady from 2011-12 to 2016-17—the average debt was $16,625, according to the CSU.
“We all know the country is in the middle of a student debt crisis, so it’s encouraging to see our average loan debt steadily falling,” says HSU Financial Aid Director Peggy Metzger. “Some of this has to do with showing students how to manage their money.”
Metzger says another factor has helped with overall debt levels but may make things more challenging for some students. That was the elimination of one type of federal loan. Phased out in 2017, the federal Perkins Loan program provided low-interest loans to undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial need.
Metzger says educating students about personal finance has helped make a dent in HSU student debt, too. Over the last few years, the University has stepped up efforts to provide budgeting tips and resources to prospective and first-year students. For example, Metzger often shares budgeting tips with students at freshman orientation and in lower-division courses.
“This generation of students tends to be more debt-averse, and we want to inform them as best we can so they can get through college and get their degrees,” says Metzger.
Among her top tips? Be aware of how much you borrow and spend.
“Only take out the amount of loan you need, and don’t necessarily take everything that is offered,” she says. “There are ways to limit spending, such as renting textbooks or using local buses rather than a car. It’s the little things that count.”
Borrowing and Budgeting Tips
Here are a few steps students can take to manage their money:
-Avoid unnecessary debt. Decline loans you do not currently need (you can always request them later). You can borrow as you go and request as little as $500 per term.
*Borrow wisely. Be an informed consumer and a prudent borrower.
-Spend wisely. Make your financial aid refund last and don’t spend it all as soon as you get it.
-Plan ahead. Use the Financial Aid calculator FAFSA4caster to estimate eligibility for federal aid and understand your options for paying for college.
-Start early. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply for aid and get a jump on your scholarship search.
For more management and budgeting tips, go to finaid.humboldt.edu/costs/money