This blog post is the second in our series exploring student loan debt. Our previous blog post showed promising trends in terms of the percentage of bachelor’s graduates at Texas public universities who graduate with student loan debt decreasing from 62.5% in 2014 to 56.4% in 2020, as well the statewide median debt amount dropping from $26,564 per graduate in 2014 to $25,207 in 2020. We now turn our attention to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s (THECB) “Student Debt” goal as stated in the 60x30TX Plan: Undergraduate student loan debt will not exceed 60% of first-year wages for graduates of Texas public institutions.
Based on the THECB’s stated goals, the 60% benchmark was established to “ensure student loan debt levels stay in balance with the earning potential of credentials.” While the THECB reports data combined for 2- and 4-year institutions, our review of the data will concentrate on public universities in the state.
NOTE: A fourth tab that includes debt-to-income data by university has been added to the visualizations for those interested in exploring the campus-level data further. A series of filters has been added to the right side of the visualization. For easier viewing, we recommend clicking the “Full Screen” button on the bottom right.
This is the third statewide metric in the THECB data related to student debt that appears to be trending in the right direction:
While the general trends are promising, a closer look at the individual institutions shows that much work remains with regards to student loan debt. Of the 35 public universities in Texas, 18 of them have a percentage of median student loan debt that is more than 60% of first-year earnings for bachelor’s graduates. Of these 18 institutions, 7 of the universities are right at or above 70%: Sam Houston State University (69.7%), Texas Tech University (69.8%), Texas A&M University-Kingsville (70.1%), Stephen F. Austin State University (76.3%), Sul Ross State University (77.3%), Prairie View A&M University (101.3%), and Texas Southern University (103.2%), as the two schools at the bottom of this list are the two HBCUs in Texas. Having percentages at or above 100% means that successful students are leaving school with a bachelor’s degree and are earning less in their first-year jobs than the total student loan debt that they accumulated as undergraduate students. While the average debt for bachelor’s graduates has fallen significantly at PVAMU (down $6,173 from $37,859 in 2014 to $31,686 in 2020) and Texas Southern (down $4,758 from $37,512 in 2014 to $32,754 in 2020), the 2020 debt loads for graduates from these institutions rate as two of the top-three public universities (along with Texas Tech University) for median student loan debt for bachelor’s graduates at public universities in Texas. These data speak to broader concerns related to equity that we hope to revisit in future blog posts.