I'm not sure whether student loan debt is exaggerated on other campuses, but here at Brooklyn College the amount of debt is surely overstated. The faculty of CUNY, which includes BC, has consistently protested tuition hikes, on grounds that student debt is unacceptably high.
But my new survey of BC students found that few have significant loan indebtedness. Only 15.2 percent of 402 students surveyed took out loans of at least $1,000 for the current academic year; with only 7.2 percent having current loans of at least $4,500. Among NYC high school graduates, 4.0 percent of those whose tuition is fully paid by grants and scholarships have current loans above $1000; 16.1 percent among those with no tuition subsidy. The CUNY Value report also found that only a very small share of CUNY students take out loans. By contrast, my study found that for all those who graduated a non-NYC high school, 32.0 percent have current loans of at least $1,000; 16.7 percent having current loans of at least $4,500. Thus, reports of high CUNY student indebtedness reflects the indebtedness of non-NYC high school graduates, especially when the data includes the loans transfer students took out at their former schools.
Robert Cherry is Broeklundian Professor at Brooklyn College.