Students, campuses taking steps to reduce student debt

Loan default rate of CU students below that of state, national averages

Despite – or because of – higher tuition, University of Colorado students and the campuses are taking steps to reduce student debt.

Todd Saliman, vice president and chief financial officer, reported on the topic to the Board of Regents at its meeting last week at CU Denver.

In 2012, the number of CU-Boulder undergraduate students in the $32,000-and-below annual income category applying for financial aid totaled 3,253, compared to 3,208 in 2013. Also, more students who applied for student loans opted not to use them. For example, CU-Boulder students in the same income category who did not use loans -- despite being eligible -- was 1,087 in 2012; that number rose to 1,219 in 2013.

The numbers are consistent across the CU-Boulder, UCCS and CU Denver campuses, flattening somewhat in the middle- to higher-middle income categories.

The number of students applying for financial aid has dropped the past year at all three institutions.

Resident undergrads applying for financial aid:

2012  2013
CU-Boulder 5,341 5,208
UCCS 1,089 859
CU Denver 1,154 979

Saliman said steps students are taking to minimize student debt include:

  • Living with parents
  • Living with multiple roommates
  • Using alternative transportation
  • Cutting back on personal expenses
  • Remaining on parents’ insurance plan
  • Earning college credit in high school or competency testing

Other means:

  • Part-time work
  • College savings plans
  • Parent/Private loans
  • Credit cards

The institutions also are taking steps to help minimize student debt, Saliman said.

Chancellor Don Elliman said about 90 percent of CU Denver’s students work while going to school to keep costs down. “If you are working while going to college, the temptation to live high off the hog is not there,” he said.

Chancellor Phil DiStefano said CU-Boulder students are counseled on money management during orientation and throughout their first year.

“But we need to follow up with them to see how it’s working,” he said. “I do think we could do a better job following up after the first year.”

Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak said UCCS provides loan counseling, which has been a factor in reducing the student loan default rate.

“If you take a 10-year trajectory, we have lowered that default rate,” she said. “They were never high, but they’re at an all-time low now.”

The 3.8 percent loan default rate at CU is substantially lower than state and national averages, which are 10.4 percent and 10 percent respectively.

In other business at last week’s Board of Regents meeting:

  • Saliman reported that Gov. Hickenlooper’s suggested $60 million in funding for higher education operating budgets is good news for CU, which would likely receive more than $16 million of that amount. The governor’s proposal represents an 11 percent increase for higher education. The only two construction projects in the governor’s budget request benefit CU: the Auraria Library, shared by CU Denver, and a visual and performing arts building at UCCS.
  • The board approved three new degree programs: doctor of psychology in school psychology at CU Denver, and two at CU-Boulder, master of science in supply chain management and master of science in real estate.

Jay Dedrick contributed to this report.

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