Student Debt Continues to Climb, Landmark Ruling on Borrower Defense | Other News

Class of 2017 Four-Year Graduates' Average Student Debt Is $28,650

TICAS’ 13th annual report on debt at graduation finds the average student debt for college graduates continues to climb, but at a slower pace. Nationally, about two in three (65 percent) college seniors who graduated from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2017 had student loan debt. These borrowers owed an average of $28,650, 1 percent higher than the 2016 average.

Our latest report on debt at graduation found wide variations in debt levels across states as well as colleges. Average student debt at graduation in 2017 ranged from $18,850 in Utah to $38,500 in Connecticut, and new graduates’ likelihood of having debt ranged from 38 percent in Utah to 74 percent in New Hampshire. High-debt states remain concentrated in the Northeast and low-debt states are mainly in the West.  It also explores the link between college graduation and successful loan repayment, and which college graduates are more likely to default on their student loans.

Read the report and view the interactive map

Researchers Help Chart a New Course for California College Affordability

With one of the largest economies in the world, keen public attention to issues of college costs and student debt, and an incoming Governor committed to reforming financial aid to better cover total college costs, the decisions California's leaders make in the coming months could help close racial and socioeconomic gaps in college access, affordability, and success for millions of Californians.

In an edited volume by TICAS, Designing Financial Aid for California’s Future, higher education researchers explore in detail ways that California’s policymakers could improve the design and delivery of state financial aid to create more affordable, equitable public higher education opportunities.

Read the compendium

Landmark Court Decision on the Borrower Defense Rule

In October, following illegal delays, missed deadlines, and a critical court ruling, the Borrower Defense regulation went into effect, protecting students against illegal conduct by their college, and offering debt relief to borrowers who have been waiting too long already. By holding colleges accountable, the rule will also deter bad behavior in the first place.

However, while their legal responsibilities are now clear, the Department of Education has not yet met them. It should have immediately halted collections on loans and resumed resolving claims, yet a reported 100,000 claims are still in limbo and a lawsuit was recently filed against the Department for failing to cancel student loans for borrowers whose schools closed before students could earn their degrees.

New Bill Makes Critical Improvements to Help Borrowers Manage Debt and Avoid Default

Last month, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), together with Senators Stabenow (D-MI), Gillibrand (D-NY), Baldwin (D-WI), Blumenthal (D-CT), Schatz (D-HI), Cardin (D-MD), and Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced the Affordable Loans for Any Student Act. The bill makes many commonsense and urgently-needed changes to simplify and improve repayment options, which will ultimately help reduce default.

The Affordable Loans for Any Student Act incorporates longstanding TICAS recommendations to streamline today's array of income-driven repayment (IDR) options into a single, improved plan that works better for students and taxpayers, while preserving borrowers' ability to repay their loans through fixed monthly payments if that is what they prefer.

Click here for more on the Affordable Loans for Any Student Act

A Stronger TICAS

Over the past 13 years of work on college affordability, TICAS has earned a strong reputation for policymaking expertise, an evidence-based approach, and commitment to putting students first. With student debt at $1.5 trillion and rising, TICAS’ mission has never been more important, and we’re are excited to announce new additions to our team that will help us carry forward this legacy and make college the reliable path to the middle class it has the potential to be:

  • Beth Stein is TICAS' new vice president responsible for managing our federal policy team. Most recently, Beth was general counsel and chief oversight counsel for Assistant Democratic Leader Senator Patty Murray's staff at the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. 
  • Patricia Balana joins us as chief operating officer and chief financial officer, where she will help chart TICAS' strategy and manage all aspects of finance, information technology, and human resource functions. Patricia previously worked at Jobs for the Future, where she was COO and also directed JFF's multi-state-level policy and advocacy network.

Frank Chong, Zakiya Smith Ellis, and Kate Tromble have also joined our board.

Read more here

More TICAS Work

  • The Self-Defeating Consequences of Student Loan Default
    Our latest brief explores how the punitive consequences of defaulting on student debt can perversely make it harder for struggling borrowers to return to school and regain their financial footing, even though graduating from college will make it easier to repay their loans. The brief includes recommendations for how policymakers and colleges can help borrowers better prevent and get out of default.
  • Going the Distance: Consumer Protection for Students Who Attend College Online
    Three million Americans now go to college entirely online, including 1.3 million enrolled at a school online in a state other than where they live. This represents an important new choice for students, but also a new challenge for states seeking to ensure the quality of the education provided to residents. This report outlines improvements to federal rules and ways states can collaborate to expand college opportunity without putting students at risk of unmanageable debt from poor-quality online colleges.
  • Same Program, Different Results: Better Options Exist for Students in the Worst-Performing Gainful Employment Programs
    The gainful employment rule enforces the Higher Education Act’s requirement that all career education programs receiving federal student aid “prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.” The rule uses debt-to-earnings ratios to assess whether career education programs at public, nonprofit, and for-profit colleges are leaving their graduates with reasonable debt burdens. Programs that exceed allowable thresholds—those consistently leaving their graduates with more debt than they can repay—must improve or lose eligibility for federal funding. A recent analysis identified several poorly performing programs that are located near programs that have much lower cost and/or much better outcomes.

COMING SOON: #GivingTuesday

TICAS is excited to once again participate in #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving, on November 27. Help make a difference for low-income students and struggling borrowers by giving to TICAS – on Giving Tuesday or today!

For more information, visit