The average debt for a 2006 graduate from Temple is $27,355 – up $1,862 from the previous year’s graduates, according to the Project on Student Debt that cited Temple graduates as some of the highest indebted students at public schools.
“Over time, loans have become the staple of the financial aid package, and that has created this debt for sure where other generations have had more grants,” said James Earl Davis, an education professor at Temple.
The national debt average for 2006 graduates totaled $19,646, an 8 percent climb from 2005 to 2006, according to the project compiled by the Institute for College Access and Success. This average actually lies $1,500 lower than its reality due to a limited number of campuses contributing and the lack of information available to college officials, according to the project.
While the project tracks federal loan information, its numbers are mainly collected through surveys for each campus that the project licenses from publishers, said Bob Shireman, the executive director of the Project on Student Debt.
“One of the things that we wanted to be improved is the accuracy of that data because we have found that those who do those surveys are not necessarily that careful about getting the best and most up-to-date information from each and every campus,” he said.
While 71 percent of 2006 Temple graduates accumulated debt, Pennsylvania ranked as the eighth-highest state with an average student’s debt reaching $22,776. Sixty-nine percent of Pennsylvania students graduated with debt in 2006.
“It’s probably true that, compared to Pitt and Penn State and probably other places, the income level at Temple is probably a little lower, so to afford the tuition, the students are going to have to borrow more,” said Dr. William J. Stull, professor and chair of the economics department.
Temple provides grants for 65 percent of entering freshman, but it’s how that aid is distributed that will make a difference, Shireman said.
“If you have a good need-based grant program, then you can keep debt down even if your sticker price, your tuition, is high,” he said.
Even though Temple, as a state-related school, has a higher tuition rate than state schools, most public institutions still offer lower tuition rates than their private counterparts. Even so, this does not guarantee less debt. With tuitions two to three times that of Temple’s in-state tuition of $10,252, Drexel, La Salle, Penn and St. Joe’s universities all boast lower average student debt ranging from $16,120 to $25,347. While there is a correlation between debt and tuition levels, there are also exceptions, Shireman said.
“An institution that enrolls a lot of students from higher income backgrounds has less pressure to find money for financial aid,” he said.
Also, some parents are still willing to take on their child’s college debt and for some, tuition is “pocket change,” Stull said.
“At Princeton, the tuition is gigantic, but the parents can afford it because they’re all rich people that go there,” he said of the university ranked lowest for a 2006 graduate with under $5,000 in average debt. “Either they can afford it out of current income, or they wouldn’t think of putting that debt burden on their children.”
Amanda Snyder can be reached at