CU helping students minimize debt, maximize return on investment

Loan default rate among CU students with debt is markedly lower than state, national averages

CU’s efforts to minimize tuition and fee increases, while also providing financial aid, are helping to minimize debt among CU students, who are less likely to default on loans than those at other institutions across the state and nation.

Todd Saliman, vice president and CEO of the CU system, delivered that message during the Nov. 7 Board of Regents meeting at CU South Denver, where he detailed student aid and debt across the campuses.

CU students have an overall loan default rate of 3.6%, which is approximately 7 percentage points lower than the national and statewide average, Saliman reported.

He noted that systemwide, 42% of resident undergraduates took out student loans in the 2019 fiscal year. Of the students who took out loans, the average debt for a bachelor’s degree for resident and nonresident students declined from 2017 to 2018 at CU Boulder ($28,689 to $27,396), CU Colorado Springs ($27,121 to $26,082) and CU Denver ($29,064 to $28,257).

Saliman said the debt was on par with other state institutions such as Colorado State University, Metropolitan State University of Denver and Colorado Mesa University; it was about $5,000 less than debt carried by Colorado School of Mines graduates.

The return on investment in a college degree remains impressive, too, Saliman said. Individuals with only a high school diploma between the ages of 25-29 average annual earnings of $38,704, which is about $24,000 less than those with a bachelor’s degree ($62,707). On average, someone with a bachelor’s degree will earn $1.5 million more compared to the earnings of someone without a degree over the course of a lifetime.

The average annual loan payments within 10 years of graduation is about $3,500 for all degree earners, while salaries ranged between $50,500 for liberal arts degrees to about $90,000 for degrees in engineering and science, he said.

Watch: CU Student Financial Aid

Regent Heidi Ganahl, R-Superior, asked that CU look further into scholarships and grants for transfer students – those who might have received first-year scholarships to attend out-of-state institutions but then returned home.

“Maybe six months earlier, all these colleges across the country were offering these large scholarships to them because they were first-year students and then they’re coming back to apply as transfer students,” Ganahl said. “Nothing has really changed about them as an individual, but the scholarship doesn’t come through. And I think that could be one area where we can have competitive advantage is giving us the opportunity to provide scholarship assistance to transfer students.”

She said transfer student enrollments have gone up 5 percentage points – from 9% to 14% - in recent years.

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