Debt. For many, it’s as much a part of calculating where to attend school as location, academic rigor, or what mom and pop think. In fact it’s often tied very closely to what mom and pop think — since they may be footing some or all of the up-front bills, or even helping make post-graduation payments. So how much debt can students expect to face if they want to go to one of the top business schools? Poets&Quants crunched the numbers based on school-supplied data from our 2017 ranking.
There are 82 schools in the ranking, of which 62 provided debt data. P&Q found that 18 schools graduated more than half their students with debt. Eight schools had grads with more 60% debt, and four schools had 70% or more. The top debt-producing school is Providence College, a private, Roman Catholic school in Providence, Rhode Island, where 73% of graduates from the most recent graduating class walked away with a diploma and at least some debt.
Providence had the highest percentage of students with debt, and its average per-student debt was high, too: $36,011, seventh-most among all ranked schools that provided data. (See chart below for the 10 schools with the highest per-student debt averages.) Providence was among 23 schools with average debts of $30,000 or more, but there were three schools that crossed the $40,000 threshold for per-student debt, including the top school, Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the average was $43,894.
On the other end of the spectrum, eight schools boasted per-student debt averages of less than $20,000, including the lowest, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business ($8,938), the only school under $10,000. Of the 62 schools that reported debt data, the average per-student debt was $27,484.
NOT ALL SCHOOLS ARE DEBT FACTORIES
About Indiana Kelley: Just as students at some schools pile on the debt, students elsewhere manage to avoid it. Kelley, with by far the lowest percentage of graduates carrying debt after four years of high-quality education, is also one of the top schools in the 2017 ranking: No. 6. Moreover, only one-third, or 33.4%, of Kelley grads owe — 12th-fewest among ranked schools that provided data.
Seven schools boast fewer than 30% of grads with debt, and two have fewer than 20%: Wake Forest University (19%), and the lowest-percentage school, the Jindal School of Management at the University of Texas-Dallas, where only 7.15% of graduates carry debt into the real world.
Twenty schools did not report debt data for Poets&Quants‘ ranking, among them No. 1 Wharton, No. 5 Georgetown McDonough, No. 7 UNC Kenan-Flagler, No. 10 UC-Berkeley Haas, and No. 13 Michigan Ross. Safe to say the cost to attend these top schools means significant number of students are accusing significant debt there.
Surprisingly, the top schools are not the main debt-producing schools. In the top 15, as shown above, most of the schools are in the mid-30% range or less for graduates with debt, with only Notre Dame Mendoza standing out at 45%. Notre Dame is also the top school where grads owe the most on average ($29,271), followed by No. 14 Emory Goizueta and No. 2 Washington Olin ($25,888). But these averages fall far below the highest-debt schools: Drexel, Ithaca College ($42,016), Sacred Heart-Jack Welch ($40,033), and New Hampshire-Paul ($39,129).
See the next page for the complete list of 2017 ranked schools’ percentage of students with debt and average debt.