Cumulative Debt Among 2009 Bachelor’s Degree Completers, by Sector

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Among students beginning their studies in 2003-04, about 19% of bachelor's degree completers — and about 13% of students who last attended a four-year institution but did not complete a bachelor's degree — accumulated more than $28,000 in student debt.

Figure 2011_9A: Distribution of Cumulative Debt Among 2009 Bachelor's Degree Completers, by Last Institutional Sector Attended

 Figure 2011_9A represents Cumulative Debt Among 2009 Bachelor’s Degree Completers, by Sector. For a corresponding Section 508-compliant data table, see http://trends.collegeboard.org/student-aid.

Notes & Sources 

NOTE:   Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS) reports on a nationally representative sample of students who began their studies in 2003-04.  Figures 9A and 9B are based on students whose last institution attended was a four-year college or university.  Debt categories are based on quartiles of total debt for the 66% of students meeting this criterion who took out student loans.  Debt amounts include both federal and nonfederal student loans.  The "All" category includes both dependent and independent students.  For independent bachelor's degree recipients, the sample size in the for-profit four-year sector is too small to obtain accurate estimates, and therefore was omitted from Figure 9A. In the for-profit sector, many four-year institutions enroll students in shorter-term certificate and associate degree programs.  This is less common in public and private nonprofit four-year institutions.

Sources:  Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS), 2009; calculations by the authors.

  • Bachelor's degree completers are more likely than those who did not graduate to have accumulated large amounts of student debt, but overall they are also somewhat more likely to have no debt at all.
  • Among dependent students beginning their postsecondary studies in 2003-04 who last attended a for-profit four-year institution, 15% had earned bachelor's degrees by 2009. Two-thirds of these graduates had at least $28,000 in education debt. About 15% of dependent and 16% of independent students who last attended a for-profit four-year institution, but did not earn a bachelor's degree, borrowed more than $28,000.
  • Among dependent students who last attended a public four-year institution, 64% had earned bachelor's degrees by 2009. Fourteen percent of these graduates had at least $28,000 in education debt. Over a quarter of the independent public four-year graduates had this much debt.