It’s not news to anyone that student debt is a huge and growing problem. More money is tied into student debt than credit cards or mortgages, a national burden second only to medical debt. And a massive share of it, nearly half, is shackled to the ankles of graduate students.
What might be news is that the blame for a shocking amount of that debt can be laid at the feet of only twenty universities. Just a score of mostly for-profit and private universities account for $6.5 billion in government student loans annually, a full fifth of the national total.
The worst offender, according to a study by the Center for American Progress, is Walden University, a for-profit school (Sylvan Learning System owns a controlling interest) that focuses on graduate degrees in health, education, and business. It boasts a student body of more than 50,000 students both on campus and online, and they have, among them, racked up more than three-quarters of a billion dollars in federal debt.
And that is in a single school year. Slim comfort to those indebted students that Walden’s financial details are quite public – it has to sting to know that more than a quarter of that price-tag is funneled directly into marketing for the school. Baiting the trap for more borrower-students.
The ubiquitous University of Phoenix takes slot number three on the list, with its 250,000 students borrowing nearly half a billion. Medical and law schools are not as highly represented as one might think, though three US-owned medical schools in the Caribbean make the list. Most degree seekers at the worst offenders are working on degrees in fine arts, journalism, or government. Those fond of conspiracies might make something of that, though exactly what, who knows?
All of the above is ample proof, as if anyone needed that, of why it’s important to Google your school of choice and the word “debt” before making a final decision.