MN bachelor’s grads carrying a little less debt

Minnesota college students graduated last year with slightly less debt than students did the year before, but a state expert says it’s unclear what caused it and whether it’s just a blip.

The state Office of Higher Education put the median debt at $27,300 in 2013, down about $200.

State analyst Tricia Grimes said she has a hunch that awareness of debt may have prompted people to change their thinking.

“Some students may be more leery of taking on debt,” she said, “and some institutions are working harder to try to make sure students understand the consequences of how much they are borrowing.”

Graduates from for-profit colleges had the highest median debt — about $47,000. Students from private, not-for-profit colleges had a median debt of around $28,000.

Those who attended the U and state-run universities had debt of more than $25,000.

The only type of institution to see four-year-degree debt go up last year was the state-run university. There grads saw debt increase by about $100 to $25,400.

Tuition at state-run schools is often lower than that at private colleges and the University of Minnesota.

But Grimes said state-university students “are somewhat more likely to take five or six years to get through. So they end up with similar amounts borrowed overall.”>>

Last year’s data does not include recent tuition freezes and significant increases to the state grant.

Next year’s numbers will, and Grimes says she hopes that will cause debt levels to drop further.

Seventy percent of all Minnesota students borrowed money for college, a number that has remained fairly steady.