Tommies pay loans off in timely manner despite high debt

Even though a project by The Institute for College Access and Success ranked Minnesota as having the third highest average student debt in the nation, university numbers show that most St. Thomas students pay off their loans.

The project showed the average Minnesota college student from the class of 2011 borrowed $29,793. Kris Roach, director of Admissions and Financial Aid, said St. Thomas has a default rate of 2.1 percent, meaning that 97.9 percent of St. Thomas students have been able to pay off those loans in a timely manner.

“Our student default rate … is very good. What that says to me is that yes students have borrowed, but our students have still been successful enough at getting their jobs and paying off their student loans,” Roach said.

<p>Freshman Sam Larence scans books purchased by students at the St. Thomas book store. Textbooks are just one of the many factors that go into student loans. (Kayla Bengtson/TommieMedia)</p>
Freshman Sam Larence scans books purchased by students at the St. Thomas book store. Textbooks are just one of the many factors that go into student loans. (Kayla Bengtson/TommieMedia)

Senior Abigail Rohlfing said she thinks the $29,793 average is accurate.

“It’s accurate because I took out thousands of dollars just to sign up for classes. I’ll have to take out more this coming semester to make sure I graduate,” Rohlfing said.

While some students worry about paying off their loans, sophomore Brock Johnson said he thinks these loans are well worth the investment.

“I feel like this ranking is a good sign. Minnesota is pursuing higher education,” Johnson said. “I don’t mind being in debt for a while if I’m going to benefit from it in the future.”

Roach said she agrees that loans are well worth the investment.

“I believe that Minnesotans value education. They still see that investing in an education over the course of a lifetime is one of the best investments that you can make,” Roach said.

Most St. Thomas students take out two types of loans, Roach said. The average amount of federal loans taken out is $21,500. However, when the federal loans are combined with private loans, it averages at $31,000.

Roach said it usually takes around 10 years for a student to pay off his or her loans.

“It’s normally a 10 year repayment. Monthly payment, 10 years, for most of the loan programs,” Roach said. “They start six months after you graduate, after being a full time student.”

While it takes time to pay off this debt, Roach said it’s really the best way to pay for an education.

“It’s hard to save. It’s difficult to write a check out of current earnings because we’re all kind of living on what we make and paying our bills,” Roach said. “That means that we need to consider our future and borrow from future earnings.”

Rolfing said she feels secure about paying off her loans with future earnings, especially with President Barack Obama’s Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which forgives a student’s loans after 20 years of consistent, on-time payments.

“I feel good knowing about Obama’s debt forgiveness program. I’m happy knowing that I won’t have to pay off my loans for the rest of my life,” Rohlfing said.

Roach said she doesn’t see how the concept is feasible because she wonders where that money is going to come from.

“I had to repay my student loans,” Roach said. “I took that on because I knew I was borrowing and I knew that it was my obligation to repay them. So I guess I would challenge the next generation to see that in the same way.”

Rolhlfing said although loans can be concerning, the money is going toward something worthwhile.

“I know that this investment will benefit me in the future, and eventually I will find a job that I love,” Rohlfing said.

Kayla Bengtson can be reached at

4 Replies to “Tommies pay loans off in timely manner despite high debt”

  1. While I think this article brings up some valid points I feel that the data is not directly translatable to St. Thomas students. Here is some food for thought. Tuition is roughly 40000 dollars for general tuition, room and board even then that number is generous as I know the tuition is hiked on average 500-1000 dollars per year. Even living off campus, the costs are still hovering around the 35000 range as 32 credits alone is 32,000.
    Regardless the average tuition then for a 4 year degree at UST is 160000 dollars. While many students benefit from a scholarship ranging from 7000-20000 dollars a year that only cuts roughly 1 year of tuition off. So 120000 dollars is still the bill most students are stuck with. While the federal maximum loan per student per year alone is 5000 with average increases of 1000 annually. These bare loans do roughly add up to the 21500 stated in the article. This knocks the tuition down to 100,000, which is still a lot to chew off. On average I would estimate that the average UST student takes out an additional 10,000-20,000 comparatively. So as it stands now why are the default rates so low? Look at the demographics of this school, there is little diversity and I would go so far as to say a majority of the individuals at this school are upper income

  2. families. It is not by chance either as I feel many students are the benefactors of this. They are already living an advantageous lifestyle, so when they graduate in this economy they are having the ability to live off their parent’s wealth and the jobs they do get can be put towards the loans. The average loan payment for 20,000 dollars is roughly 250 dollars and when you have more loans i.e. 40,000 that would be 500. Simple math says that is a significant portion of a monthly income, even in adult standards.
    At St. Thomas there are significantly higher expectations for family contributions and that is why there are more students with higher amounts of money coming from private loans, since there are still many students who do not fit that background. There are also many families who have the students take out loans, so they feel that their investment is actually theirs while the family is perfectly capable of paying off the loan and or even school. This is a much more rational explanation of how and why UST students do not default on their loans, even when the loans are much more costly than almost all of Minnesota and the country for that matter.
    I am in no way disparaging the school that I love; I just feel that this article is slanted in favor of showing how hardworking

  3. I am in no way disparaging the school that I love; I just feel that this article is slanted in favor of showing how hardworking and dedicated UST students are. There are many students who fit that qualification; however I feel that the latter is a much more believable response. With on average 1300 students in every freshman class I don’t actually believe there are 1250 students who are extremely hardworking and able to find jobs, I feel that there are much more pronounced factors in how and why their loans are being paid off so effectively. I assume there are students who are able to effectively tackle this debt without having support, but in this economy any more debt than money you can make in your first salaried job is simply a severely risky investment knowing the economy and risks of student loans since the only way to get out of them is death.

  4. @Brock Johnson, did I really just read that you “feel like this ranking [that Minnesota has the third highest average student debt in the nation] is a good sign.”… This doesn’t mean Minnesotan’s are “pursuing higher education” more than others. It means Minnesota universities are providing nearly the same service as other state universities at a higher cost. This study ranked AVERAGE student debt. This doesn’t imply more Minnesotan’s are pursuing degrees; it implies that the Minnesotan’s that are pursuing degrees are paying more than their cohorts from other states. O and @Abigail Rohlfing… If you think the US Government has the money to pay off your student loans perhaps it’s time to take an econ class. For the first time in this nations history, there is now more student loan debt in America ($+1 TRILLION) than there is credit card debt! You think our housing market is in trouble now? Just wait a decade…. Forget about mortgage payments, our generation will be saddled with student loan debt well into our thirties. Google it, it’s what every major economist is saying today.

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