College comparison tool focuses on student debt | Local News

A study released by LendEDU, — a marketplace for student loan refinancing — is trying to bring a little more transparency to the $1.4 trillion student loan debt crisis in the United States.

But it’s just one resource among many useful college comparison tools out there.

The Student Loan Debt By School By State report ranks 1,161 public and private four-year higher education institutions by the average amount of student debt per borrower and the percentage of graduates who leave a school with debt.

LendEDU numbers suggest that the average class of 2016 graduate still had $27,975 when leaving school, which is a 1.5 percent drop from 2015’s $28,400 average.

Charles Mayfield, the director of financial assistance at Northwest Missouri State University, thinks that overall positive trend will continue because the general public has become more aware of student loan debt.

“The things that are happening on individual campuses just like at Northwest, are helping with that cause too,” he said.

Mayfield said Northwest just finished reviewing its internal data, and the average student loan debt per graduating senior was $25,926 last year, which is 5 percent lower compared to 2014.

The goal of the financial aid office at Northwest is to educate borrowers and offer resources to minimize student debt.

“The end goal with student loan debt is to successfully repay,” Mayfield said. “The U.S. Department of Education measures whether schools and their students are doing that or not by the cohort default rate. Most recently ours was 8 percent, which is below the national average, below the state average, below the average of our peer institutions.”

At Benedictine College, the average student debt per borrower in 2016 was $29,602, which is a 24 percent decrease from 2015.

Tony Tanking, the director of financial aid at the private Catholic school, said a major reason for the reduction is because of endowment funds that supply scholarship money to students had time to bounce back from the stock market crash in 2008.

“Many private colleges that have limited endowments took quite a hit,” Tanking said. “Unfortunately, students at the very beginning phases of that didn’t have as much funds available, but now the stock market has been recouping, and returns are there to make funds available for students.”

Two additional online resources for comparing the cost of college and other factors like specific degrees are https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/ and a new website recently launched by the Missouri Department of Higher Education https://journeytocollege.mo.gov/

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