Despite national worries over student debt the last few years, 53.4 percent of UW-Madison’s 2015-‘16 undergraduate class graduated without student debt—a 3 percent increase from the year before, according to a report from the Office of Student Financial Aid.
“There is no single factor that explains the increase, rather it’s a combination of many things,” said Karla Weber, the communications manager at OSFA. “We also credit financial aid leveraging, tuition freezes, and smart-borrowing on behalf of students and their families for this change.”
The report said overall debt from borrowers decreased by about 2 percent. Average student loan debt for graduating students with a bachelor’s degree fell by $513 last year to a total of $28,255, which is $1,205 lower than the 2015 state average. UW-Madison is also below the 2015 national average of $30,100, according to the report.
UW-Madison default rates have also decreased, “at a steady rate from 1.5 percent in 2012 to 1.2 percent in 2013, significantly lower than the national rate of 11.3 percent,” according to university officials.
It’s unclear how Gov. Scott Walker’s recent budget proposal—which includes a 5 percent tuition decrease and $135 million additional funding for the UW System—would affect student borrowing if passed, Weber said.
“There is no way to predict how that could further impact student borrowing as tuition is only one component of a student’s cost to attend,” Weber said. “Even if tuition stays the same or decreases, there are still other costs to consider. We will just have to wait and see.”