Why Do PA College Grads Have so Much Debt?

Student DebtPennsylvania college grads are accumulating staggering levels of debt—higher than the national average. Sunday’s Tribune-Review reports the all-too-common story of young college grads tens of thousands of dollars in debt and unable to find a good paying job after graduation.

Pennsylvania’s Class of 2009 graduated with $27,066 in debt—more than $3,000 above the national average, according to The Project on Student Debt. The average debt rose by more than $10,000 since 2001.

The state’s public and private four-year institutions ranked seventh highest in the nation for debt among graduates. About 72 percent of 2009 graduates carry student loans, ranking fifth-highest in the country.

Universities are continuing to raise tuition faster than the rate of inflation.

Student debt is a big problem, but it is only a symptom of a larger issue—mushrooming university administration costs, fueled by generous federal and state subsidies. From 1993 to 2007, Penn State full-time administrators, per 100 students, ‎grew by 71%, compared to 5.3% for other staff and faculty. Today, administrators outnumber teachers, researchers, and service providers.

The ballooning cost of traditional universities has resulted in a large number of students seeking alternatives, like more affordable for-profit institutions, including the University of Phoenix. To help control higher education costs, for students and taxpayers, we need to overhaul a system which rewards schools for increasing administrative costs, constructing new buildings, and raising tuition.