Update 10/23/19 3:35 p.m.: This article has been updated. It originally stated that the estimated cost of attendance at LMU is $63,777. The actual cost of attendance is $71,040 for students who live on campus and $72,651 for students who live off campus, according to LMU. The article has been updated to reflect these changes.
In a recent study done by LendEDU, with lowest debt starting at one, LMU was ranked 547 out of 845 colleges and universities for student loan debt. The same study showed that the average amount of student debt for LMU students in 2018 was $32,262.
Debt affects over half the student population at LMU, as 52% of students have some amount of debt, according to LendEDU. Eighty four percent of students receive some institutional gift aid, according to the LMU Financial Aid department. This gift aid totals $80 million per year, according to Thomas Gutto, director of transfer admission and enrollment services. This aid does not need to be paid back, but can come in amounts that do not cover the cost of attendance. The cost of attendance, according to LMU, is $71,040 for students who live on campus and $72,651 for those who live off campus.
“Personally, as a transfer student, I did not get nearly as much financial aid or academic merit [aid] as I thought I would,” said Loni Weger, a senior marketing major. “I think it’s going to make life much harder after graduation because my priority will be focused on paying off my debt before I can really start saving for my future.”
If gift aid from the University does not cover enough of the cost of attendance, this leaves students to turn to other forms of aid, including federal and private loans. These type of loans must be paid back, plus interest. This means each year the amount a student borrows increases, causing them to have to pay back more than they originally borrowed.
LMU ranked 48 out of 58 California schools in order of debt lowest to highest, according to LendEDU. California as a whole has the fourth lowest average debt of U.S. states, with an average of $22,530 per borrower, according to the same study.
Gutto noted that LMU’s default rate, meaning the number of borrowers who can’t pay back their loans, stands at 1.8%. This is lower than the California average of 8.7%, according to Gutto. This means that most LMU students are “entering repayment and succeeding,” said Gutto.
The student debt crisis in the U.S. is growing and is a contentious political issue. More than 44 million Americans have student loan debt, and that debt totaled is around $1.5 trillion, according to TIME Magazine. Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential election, such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have proposed making public college free and canceling all outstanding student loan debt.
Warren plans to forgive debt based upon the income of the borrower. Up to $50,000 in student debt for households that make less than $100,000 would be canceled, whereas no debt would be canceled for those who make over $250,000 a year, according to NPR. Sanders has proposed canceling all student loan debt, according to NPR.
Forgiving student loan debt would mean that borrowers are “less likely to file for bankruptcy, or be foreclosed upon, or even default on their medical bills,” said Ankit Kalda, a researcher for the National Bureau of Economic Research, in the NPR article.
However, some think that plans to cancel all student debt, like Sanders’, would increase the racial wealth gap, according to a Demos think tank study. Others fear that if students expect their debt to be canceled, colleges will just keep raising the price of education, according to NPR.
Private student loan lenders, such as the company Sallie Mae, are what drive this conversation. This past weekend, Sallie Mae made headlines when the company decided to celebrate $5 billion in student loans from 374,000 borrowers this year by flying 100 employees to Hawaii, according to NBC News.
The debate over student loans seems as though it will only intensify as the election approaches and debt rises. As LMU tuition has doubled since 2004, as previously reported by the Loyolan, the cost of receiving an LMU education may continue to be a financial burden to many students.