This is a revised and corrected version of an earlier story that used incomplete data. NorthCountryNow.com regrets the errors.
Students at the four colleges in Canton and Potsdam take on more than $200 million in student loan debt while attending college, according to a recently released report.
The Project on Student Debt (projectonstudentdebt.org) estimates students with loans in the Class of 2010 had loans averaging $36,142 at Clarkson University, $29,489 at St. Lawrence University, and $21,427 at SUNY Potsdam.
At Clarkson, 84 percent of the 2,735 full-time students had student loans upon graduation, 78 percent of SUNY Potsdam grads had loan debt and 66 percent of SLU full-time students had loans, according to data from the Institute for College Access & Success.
That means total loan debt for Clarkson students of approximately $83 million. The total at SUNY Potsdam is estimated at about $60 million while at St. Lawrence it is about $44 million.
While loan figures for SUNY Canton were not provided, the four-campus total easily exceeds $200 million if those students take out loans at a similar rate as the other three colleges.
And that $200 million in loans taken out every four years – or about $50 million annually -- helps pay the salaries of hundreds of college faculty and staff at in the greater Canton-Potsdam area.
But some say they also burden students unable to find high-paying jobs soon after graduation with oppressive loan payments for years.
Statewide, students who took out loans for college -- more than a million as of the 2009-2010 school year -- incurred an estimated average of more than $26,000 each, the report says.
The report also notes that debt has been rising, on average, at about five percent a year nationwide.
Also not accounted for is the fact that some college debt is paid back before graduation, so the total amount incurred will be larger than the total of debt students take with them when they leave.
The Project on Student Debt warns that many student loans have often proven to be a risky business. “Private student loans are one of the riskiest ways to pay for college. The majority of these non-federal loans are made to students by private banks and lenders. No more a form of financial aid than a credit card, private student loans typically have uncapped variable interest rates that are highest for those who can least afford them,” says an analysis at www.projectonstudentdebt.org.
“Even when fixed rates are offered, private loans lack the basic consumer protections and flexible repayment options of federal student loans, such as unemployment deferment, income-based repayment, and loan forgiveness programs.”
Student loans were specifically exempted from 2005 federal bankruptcy legislation, and as a result, student loans must be paid in full even if borrowers are granted bankruptcy protection by a court. Only a separate proceeding in court claiming extreme hardship can get a student loan forgiven.
Other information provided by the report:
• Clarkson University -- nonfederal debt, percent of total debt of graduates 2010: 40%; 2009-10 in-state tuition and fees: $32,910; 2009-10 Total cost of attendance: $47,200; 2009-10 percent of Pell Grant recipients: 27%
• St Lawrence University -- nonfederal debt, percent of total debt of graduates 2010: 34%; 2009-10 in-state tuition and fees: $39,765; 2009-10 total cost of attendance: $51,575; 2009-10 percent of Pell Grant recipients: 18%
• SUNY College at Potsdam -- nonfederal debt, percent of total debt of graduates 2010: 18%; 2009-10 in-state tuition and fees: $6,124; 2009-10 total cost of attendance: $18,494; 2009-10 percent of Pell Grant recipients: 37%
• SUNY College of Technology at Canton -- full-time enrollment fall 2009: 2,572; 2009-10 in-state tuition and fees: $6,269; 2009-10 total cost of attendance: $18,879; 2009-10 percent Pell Grant recipients: 39%
Data for New York colleges included in the report is viewable at www.projectonstudentdebt.org/state_by_state-view2011.php?area=NY.
The full report is at projectonstudentdebt.org/files/pub/classof2010.pdf.
The report does not include for-profit schools.