UW-Madison students take less debt than national average

January 13, 2015

The percentage of undergraduates at UW–Madison who use student loans and the amount they borrow rose slightly from last year but remain below national averages, according to a report from the Office of Student Financial Aid.

The average student loan for those with an undergraduate degree from UW–Madison went from $26,625 to $27,711 in 2014, which remains below the 2013 national average of $28,400.

About 48 percent of UW–Madison students received their undergraduate degrees without federal or private student loans. Nationally, only 30 percent of undergraduates receive their degrees without these forms of debt. 

Photo: Susan Fischer

Susan Fischer

“There are a few possible reasons for the increase in undergraduate student debt amounts since 2012-13,” says Susan Fischer, director of the UW–Madison Office of Student Financial Aid. “State grants for low-income undergraduates have remained stagnant and although federal Pell Grant dollars increased slightly, it was not sufficient to offset the modest increase in living costs. Additionally, the continued difficult economy has caused some student and families to rely more heavily on borrowing than they might have otherwise planned.”

Tuition at UW–Madison has remained frozen for the last two years. The debt amounts in the report are in real dollars, not adjusted for inflation. The report captures debt only in the form of federal and private student loans. Other borrowing, including credit card debt, is not reflected. The average and median debt loads reflect only those graduates who took out loans, not the class as a whole. 

Among the graduate and professional schools, the numbers were mixed. The average debt went down for those who borrowed to obtain law, veterinary medicine and pharmacy degrees. It went up for Ph.D. and medical degrees. In general, the professional school students who borrowed for their degrees continued a trend of using the more affordable federal loan programs instead of private educational loans, according to the report.

Lee Sensenbrenner