Despite the rising cost of universities, undergraduate student loan debt at the University of Wisconsin remains less than the national, state and UW System averages for student debt.
The average total debt of graduating students with debt has increased almost 9 percent since 2002 from 43.3 percent to 51 percent, according to UW’s 2012-2013 Data Digest.
The average debt loan for UW undergraduates is below reported state levels, which were around $28,000, including the UW system and private schools. However, the 2012-13 UW-Madison figures showed 3,326 graduate students graduated with debt, with the average debt load being $26,625, according to a statement released by the UW System Board of Regents.
Although less than than the national and state average, the numbers reflect an increase from the $25,759 in average loan debt in 2011-2012.
Susan Fischer, University of Wisconsin’s Financial Aid director, said there are a few possible reasons for the increase in student loan debt. One factor could be that there are more people in school right now than UW has seen in previous years, Fischer said. It is not that the university is giving out a greater sum of money for financial aid, it is the fact that there are many more people borrowing money, she said.
Because the number of students that require financial aid is increasing, UW trying to reduce the rising loan debt, Fischer said.
“We are trying hard to raise money by asking for donations,” Fischer said, adding that it is a “hard sell.”
People are more interested in funding buildings than they are in donating money for need-based financial aid, Fischer said.
Fischer said she did not think the tuition freeze will help lower loan debt.
“It went up anyway, it may help hold it down but it won’t lower it,” Fischer said.
Fischer said the increase in student loan debt is not as big as the press is making it out to be. It increased 0.4 percent and UW is trying to lower it, she said.
UW is focused on making sure students who are supposed to graduate in four years actually do, so more money does not have to be borrowed or paid back in the future.
Rep. Dave Murphy, R-Greenville, Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities vice chair, said the student loan debt levels are too high. Murphy said he believes the state’s role in helping lower student debt is keeping the cost of university low, adding that is the role for the Board of Regents.
However, Murphy said there likely would not be a big change, as these problems cannot be fixed over night.