For followers of higher education trends, stories detailing the student loan debt crisis is nothing new. With 45 million borrowers owing nearly $1.7 trillion in student loan debt as of 2021, and with President Biden extending the federal student loan repayment freeze through May 1, 2022, the topic of student debt is top-of-mind for many as we enter the third calendar year under the cloud of COVID-19. It is against this backdrop that we are starting a new series where we will be exploring student loan debt from a variety of perspectives, beginning with a look at data within the state of Texas.
Introduced in 2015, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s (THECB) 60x30TX Plan established a series of goals for the state’s public colleges and universities to be achieved by 2030. As can be seen in the image to the right, the four 60x30TX goals range from an educated population to student debt. For the purpose of this blog series, we will be concentrating on Goal 4: Student Debt.
While the goal statement addresses one aspect of student debt, namely a 60-percent ratio of student loan debt to first-year wages, the THECB also tracks other metrics, which we explore below. In general, the data show that statewide measures related to student loan debt have improved since the introduction of the 60x30TX goals.
Percentage of Students Graduating with Student Debt
Median Student Loan Debt of Graduates
The good news regarding student loan debt at Texas public universities is that a number of metrics are trending in the right direction: the percentage of students graduating with a bachelor’s degree and with student loan debt is decreasing, as is the median student loan debt of graduates. As stated above, though, additional contextual factors provide a more full understanding of the challenges faced in terms of student loan debt. For instance, even though a smaller percentage of students are graduating with student loan debt, the fact that more degrees were awarded in 2020 when compared to 2014 means there are actually more students graduating with debt than before. Throughout the course of this blog series, we will be looking at various data points with the goal of contributing to the broader understanding of the multi-faceted nature of student loan debt.