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ULM undergraduates have less debt, low default rates

Published September 4, 2019

“Student debt” has become a conversational cliché that unless you or your college graduate have loans to repay – it’s probably not discussed.


A college education is a financial investment. When a student or their parents borrow money to fund higher education it is mainly through federal student loans.

As with all loans, repayment is required.

That’s where the financial reward of investing in a college degree with strong earning potential starts showing a return. It’s when – degree in hand – a young graduate lands a well-paying job.

Now they must begin paying off their loans, which have become “student debt.” The terms of the loan dictate the repayment, just like any other loan. And, just like any other loan, if the borrower doesn’t make payments, the loan goes into default.

The difference with student loans is there is no unemployment or bankruptcy safety net. Except for short-term deferments and in cases so rare it should hardly be mentioned – forgiveness – this loan never goes away.

There is good news from the University of Louisiana Monroe about student loans and student debt. ULM undergraduates have less student debt than both the state and national average.

For the ULM Class of 2017, the average undergraduate student loan total was $24,536. The state average was $26,808 and the national average was $26,900 (College Board).

Also, the ULM percentage of student loan default in the first three years is the lowest in the University of Louisiana System and below the national average.

The National Center for Education Statistics monitors student loan default using the “3-year Cohort Default Rates.” This measurement tracks student loan repayment for three years by students who left school – for any reason, including graduation, – in a fiscal year.

As explained by ULM Financial Aid Director Ralph Perri, ULM’s most recent FY 2015 Cohort Default Rate is only 5.5 percent. That is for students who left school in FY 2015 and whose student loan repayments were tracked through FY 2018.

ULM has a lower FY 2015 Cohort Default Rate than the 7.1 percent for four-year public universities nationwide, and the lowest in the University of Louisiana System, which averages 11.1 percent.

It means students who graduate with ULM degrees in high-growth, high-demand fields such as health sciences and business have a greater opportunity to secure well-paying jobs and pay off their loans.

“ULM students are graduating, getting good jobs and paying off their debt,” Perri said.

For future success, it pays to invest in higher education. The ULM Office of Financial Aid has information on loans, grants, scholarships and resources to help you achieve your dream career. Visit ulm.financialaid to set your future in motion.