MnSCU: Measured correctly, our grads have the least debt

cut up bill

The comment-area debate over this table of debt levels of students at Minnesota’s public and private colleges — put out by the Minnesota Private College Council — has drawn a response by the spokesman for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system.

(You may remember that MnSCU itself stirred the pot a bit last month with its own charts — here and here.)

Doug Anderson says the report — on which the private-college assessment is based — uses incomplete data, and that it acknowledges on page 22 that it gives an incomplete picture of debt levels.

(There’s a lot of that going around these days in higher ed.)

He says not all seven MnSCU universities are included in the data used in the report:

When data from all seven MnSCU universities are included, our FY11 average student debt is $27,775 – the lowest of the groups mentioned in your blog.

(That said, I’d like to know why not all made it in.)

Anderson also says, which seems to echo at least one comment on the blog, that the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) uses median debt for all graduates — not just those who have taken out loans:

It eliminates the effect of extreme values in the distribution. Because it is the standard measure used by the U.S. DOE, we also use median debt of all graduates when reporting data on MnSCU student debt.

He seems to imply that could play to MnSCU’s advantage. Anderson says 47 percent of MnSCU grads with certificates or diplomas have no debt, 33.8 percent of those with associate degrees have none, and 27.5 percent of MnSCU students with bachelor’s degrees graduate debt-free.

So for the Class of 2012, Anderson says, MnSCU students graduate with less debt than do those at other Minnesota institutions:

• Median debt for all MnSCU students graduating with a BA degree (i.e., the U.S. DOE standard measure) is $18,123
• Median debt for those MnSCU students with debt graduating with a BA degree is $25,128

(The bold type is mine.)