North Texas Daily

New university data show decrease in student loan debt as enrollment spikes

New university data show decrease in student loan debt as enrollment spikes

New university data show decrease in student loan debt as enrollment spikes
May 27
15:26 2021

University data trends from 2020 indicate a large growth in enrollment, with a decrease in student loan debt as school officials work on lessening the amount students owe.

At the Board of Regents meeting on May 13, university administration announced that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, a total of more than 47,000 students enrolled in the fall 2020 semester. This growth follows the expansion of the university’s degree offerings, with 28 new programs added across its colleges within the last three years.  

“Decisions such as recruitment strategies, tuition rates, new program development, additional faculty hires and investment in facilities are all dependent on the current and future trends,” Jennifer Evans-Cowley, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, said.

These aforementioned trends reveal an increase of enrollment over the past five years. The Denton campus increased 7 percent while the Dallas campus has grown 37 percent. 

Not only are more students coming to the university, but also a higher number are staying and completing their degrees. The rate of students who began their studies in 2019 and then returned for a second year in 2020 is 84 percent. The rate of students who graduated in four years has risen 11 percent over the past five years. 

The issue of student debt at the university has not seen the same rate of progress. 

“We’re working on reducing both the portion of our students that leave with debt and the amount of debt they’re taking out,” Evans-Cowley said.

Students with loans will see over half of their post-graduation salary taken up by debt. In 2018, graduates’ student debt equaled 61 percent of their first year wages, a rate that decreased 5 percent over the previous two years. 

In 2020, 61 percent of university students graduated with loan debt. The percentage is down 3 percent and the amount of the debt itself has fallen 4 percent from 2016.

“We’re continuously monitoring economic conditions, expanding marketing data, looking at employment forecasts and studying innovations of the future,” Evans-Cowley said. 

The university is pursuing a number of options to continue reducing the debt current students and recent graduates face. It has not raised the undergraduate tuition rate in four years. However, Evans-Cowley said that tuition is “just one part of the cost of going to college.” 

Additional resources include the School Supply Pantry, run by Academic Affairs, which provides notebooks, backpacks, calculators and other supplies free of cost. The University Advancement Team is also working on raising the amount offered by scholarships while also increasing the number of scholarships available to students. 

Required course materials are another frequent cost, with the average college student spending $1,200 a year for textbooks. Some departments have launched a new “open educational resource” that is meant to reduce the cost of textbooks and course materials.  

For example, the university’s history department will spend the summer redesigning the required two-course history sequence for affordability. The average student pays $73 for materials in each of the aforementioned history courses. Currently, 3,800 take the required class sequence each year.

“By moving to open educational resources, we’ll save our students half a million dollars next year,” Evans-Cowley said.

Featured Image: Students walk through the Union on March 3, 2021. Image by John Anderson

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Ileana Garnand

Ileana Garnand

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