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Average student debt at Iowa’s public universities dips

Iowa State University

Iowa State University

Average student debt at Iowa’s three public universities dipped slightly last year to $26,764, down $144 from the previous year, though average debt remains higher than in 2009, an Iowa Board of Regents report on financial aid shows.

Data show student borrowing has increased by 57 percent in the past decade. Tuition has more than doubled over that time. State funding has also dropped — state dollars have been cut 25 percent the last three years.

Only Iowa State University has seen its average student debt drop between 2009 and 2011.

The statewide average debt, a figure that includes ISU, University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa, has increased more than 2 percent since 2009. Iowans, though, saw their debt drop at the U of I and ISU over the same time period.

The debt numbers only include students who graduated with debt. About one-third of students at Iowa’s public universities graduate debt-free, a rate that is below the national average.

Borrowing among low-income students has increased at all three public universities. Sources of need-based funding like federal Pell Grants has not kept pace with demand, and Iowa Grant Program dollars were cut in half last year, the report said.

The report noted a variety of financial aid programs have received funding cuts or have been underfunded. The Iowa Work-Study Program and Iowa Forgivable Loan Program received no dollars last year.

The Regents are scheduled to meet on Wednesday and Thursday next week at UNI in Cedar Falls.

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