New Yorkers' student loan debt has more than doubled in the past decade, sharply outpacing the rate of inflation. According to a report [pdf] conducted by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the state's overall debt has ballooned to $82 billion—and NYC residents are faring worst of all.
Student loan debt accounts for 11.4 percent of all New Yorkers' debt as of last year. The average borrower in New York State owes $32,000 in student loans, compared to a nationwide average of $29,700. Meanwhile, the average NYC resident owes $35,100, with averages differing significantly between boroughs:
- Manhattan: $44,500
- Brooklyn: $35,000
- Staten Island: $33,400
- Queens: $32,000
- Bronx: $27,600
Unsurprisingly, the increase in student loan debts is directly tied to steadily rising tuition costs. In New York State, the cost of tuition, fees, and room and board at both public and private universities was more than double the rate of inflation over the past decade. According to a 2015 Business Insider list, four of the 20 most expensive colleges in the U.S. (Columbia, NYU, Sarah Lawrence, and Bard) are located in New York.
NYU—the third-most expensive school on Business Insider's list—made headlines last year after a ProPublica analysis found that the school leaves its poorest students saddled with exorbitant federal loans. The average cost of attending NYU hovers somewhere around $70,000 a year—the average need-based scholarship for an incoming freshman was $28,179 in 2014. In 2013, it was revealed that NYU was using students' tuition to forgive star professors' mortgages and buy vacation homes for administrators. [Disclosure: I am an NYU graduate and yes I have student loans.]
In 2014 NYU junior Lucy Parks dropped out of NYU and penned an open letter to then-university president John Sexton lambasting the university's poor financial aid track record.
"I am angry that kickbacks and swanky vacation home packages have been given to favored professors and administrators, but students are still living in Bobst [Library] because they can't afford housing," Parks wrote. That same year, Parks and two NYU professors began hosting a series of discussions titled "Student Life and Debt."
But debt averages—and rising tuitions—don't tell the whole story. For example, although a borrower in Manhattan owes nearly $17,000 more than one in the Bronx, the Bronx has the highest rate of borrowers who are 90 or more days late on payment (known as a delinquency rate) in the five boroughs. Nineteen percent of the Bronx's student loan borrowers are at least three months late on payments, making it the only borough where the delinquency rate surpasses the national rate of 16.2 percent.
Delinquency and default rates vary widely among the three types of higher education institutions offered in the state: public, private nonprofit, and proprietary. According to the report, default rates for students who attend proprietary schools are more than three times the level of those who attended private nonprofit schools. Nationwide, 96% of proprietary school graduates have student loan debt. Students who attend for-profit trade schools, like the now-shuttered ITT Tech, are therefore in a particularly vulnerable position—and these students are overwhelmingly minority students from low-income families.
"Anyone who has trouble paying student loans may be less able to make major purchases such as a home or car," DiNapoli writes in the report. A similar report conducted by NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer this April showed that millennials—who, by the way, are the most educated generation in history—are at a permanent disadvantage when it comes to earning money in the future.
Good luck paying those loans, kids!