Some Financial Relief for College Grads
College students continue to graduate with an increasing amount of loan debt, but new numbers suggest the burden may ease a bit in the near future.
Colleges and universities have been doing a better job of holding the line on tuition, and student borrowing is on the decline. Those factors, plus an improving economy overall, could be setting the stage for a less stressful and less expensive experience for graduates.
According to the College Board's 2014 Trends in Higher Education reports, the percentage of tuition and fee increases between the 2013-14 and 2014-15 years were smaller than they have been in decades.
"Prices are going up, but they're going up at a slower pace," said Sandy Baum, co-author of the reports. "During the worst of the recession, when states were really cutting their funding to public institutions, prices were going up quite rapidly."
Baum noted, though, that when tuition goes up, usually state aid does as well. In turn, the amount of borrowing is the real sign of an improving situation for students.
Undergraduate borrowing fell 14 percent over three years, according to the report. Baum cited a drop in the number of students taking out loans, and a drop in the amount being borrowed by each student.
The real positive change may not be seen for a couple years. The most recent graduates entered college when prices were going up rapidly, wages were falling and there was a more pressing need for loans.
Baum said students can largely help themselves by "graduating on time."
"Students who take five years to get a bachelor's degree borrow much more than students who take four years to get a bachelor's degree," she said.