Walla Walla University has been encouraging students to reduce their student loan debt, and student loan statistics show it is working. In 2012, 81 percent of WWU graduating seniors had student loans. Fast forward four years and only 68 percent of the WWU graduating class of 2016 had student loans. In addition, out of thousands of private colleges and universities surveyed, WWU ranked 36th for students with the least amount of private student loan debt as of May 2017.
Cassie Ragenovich, WWU director of Student Financial Services, explains there are three kinds of student loans: government, institutional, and private. Ragenovich says, “Private student loans are the least desirable of the three. Compared to government and institutional loans, they do not offer as many repayment or employment forgiveness/cancellation options, do not have the same deferment and forbearance options, are not as flexible, and usually have significantly higher interest rates.”
When planning to pay for college, Ragenovich says she would advise students to “Plan ahead. Start saving early. Get a summer job, and save those earnings for school. Apply for as many scholarships as possible. Study hard in high school so you qualify for maximum merit scholarships.”
According to studentloanhero.com, the national average student loan debt at graduation for 2016 was $37,172. WWU’s average student loan debt at graduation was $34,385. Loan default rates at WWU are also much lower than the national average. The national average default rate for a Federal Direct Loan is 11.3 percent; for WWU students the default rate is 2.3 percent. The national average Perkins Loan default rate is 11.93 percent, while the Perkins Loan default rate for WWU students is 1.57 percent. This means most WWU students are able to manage their student loan payments.
“We attribute a lot of the decline in student loan borrowing to our generous scholarship program,” says Ragenovich. “Some students are awarded over $50,000 towards their degree expenses. WWU also encourages families to search for other sources of funding plus promotes ways to save money in college.”
Ragenovich says that a helpful resource is the WWU Student Financial Services video titled “25 ways to keep college costs down,” which can be viewed at wallawalla.edu/25ways.
Posted July 18, 2017