Study: College education is less pricey in Arizona

Nov 18, 2014, 6:00 AM | Updated: 6:00 am

The cost of a bachelor’s degree may be on the rise, but a new study found 2013 Arizona graduates boast one of the lowest national averages for student loan debt.

“Arizona came in pretty low for states,” research director at The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) Debbie Cochrane said.

The state snagged the 45th spot in terms of the least amount of money last year’s graduates owed for public or non-profit college education. The average amount of debt was only $22,253. Though that number seems high, the national average was found to be $28,400. Six states topped $30,000.

“How much student loan debt students have has a lot to do with their post-college lives,” Cochrane said. “Decisions to borrow aren’t just about how to pay for college but, also, what to do with the portion of earnings after you leave school.”

Cochrane added most students graduating with a bachelor’s degree will see their investment in education pay off in the future. The study found college graduates have a lower unemployment rate than those who only finish high school. The national unemployment rate is 7.8 percent whereas the average for people only possessing high school diplomas is 16.5 percent.

The TICAS report also examined the differences in student loan debt of three of the state’s public universities. It found the 2013 Northern Arizona University graduates carried the most debt at more than $23,718. NAU also had the highest proportion of graduates with debt at 61 percent.

Arizona State University graduates showed the lowest amount of loan debt with the average just above $21,137. University of Arizona graduates fell in the middle with $22,497.

Still, those numbers are some of the lowest in the United States. New Hampshire students’ borrowing debt is nearly $33,000.

“We also believe the variation from state to state underscores the need for better state policy,” Cochrane said. “Students and families choose to borrow for college when their own savings and earnings aren’t enough, and grant aid available from the federal government or state governments isn’t enough either.”

The TICAS study discovered seven in 10 graduating seniors at public and private nonprofit colleges had student loans. At nearly one in five colleges, average debt levels increased by ten percent or more from 2012.

“We have to keep investing in higher education to make sure that college is affordable and repayment of student loans is manageable,” Cochrane added.

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Study: College education is less pricey in Arizona