Southeastern graduates have highest loan debt in region

Students who graduated from Southeastern last year may have found themselves deeper in debt than most of their peers that graduated from other universities  in Louisiana.

As found in the US News and World Report Best Colleges publication, students who graduated from Southeastern in 2010 had the highest student loan debt amongst all regional universities in the South. The average Southeastern graduate would finish school with a debt load of $36,560, despite having one of lowest tuition levels in the state. Louisiana Tech, on the other hand, saw their average graduate accrue just $14,039 in debt.

Lori Fairburn, director of Enrollment Services, had an idea as to why Southeastern students start their post-academic careers in such deep debt.

“At Southeastern, we have a significant number of students that have financial need,” said Fairburn. “As a result, compared to other schools, our students may have a higher level of debt upon graduation.  We know from the Department of Education data that Southeastern enrolls a significantly higher number of students who qualify for need-based aid than Louisiana Tech. Specifically, one-third of the students enrolled at Southeastern receive Pell grants versus only one-fifth at Tech.”

Still, some students have other ideas as to why the debt load is so large.

“I received a Pell grant, and I got almost the exact amount of money it costs to cover the tuition and fees,” said senior criminal justice major Danielle Rumpf. “All I received back was $ 18. If everyone received something similar to that, it may cause less debt, because people are using it for what it’s supposed to go to, not for random things.”

Others have found ways around student loans but are still feeling the effects.

“I pay for everything out of pocket, so it’s a lot harder for me, because I work 40 hours a week and still do 12 hours in class,” said senior graphic design major and non-traditional student Eric Brown.

Fairburn is looking into the statistics provided by The Advocate.

“When you look at the article and how it’s written, you want to know what are they comparing and how are they comparing,” said Fairburn. “The Advocate reported that, but what we’re doing is looking into it to see so that we can better understand what the article is saying.”

Fairburn also added that there are numerous factors to look at when dealing with an issue like this.

“There are a lot of things that go into a institution’s student debt rate, and those are the things we are trying to identify right now, just so we can have our own response to the article,” said Fairburn.