Penn State Student Debt: The Reality We Must Face

by Johnna Purcell, GenFKD

Going to college in undoubtedly very expensive. As I have alluded to in past weeks, going to Penn State is particularly expensive for being a public college. In fact, Penn State is ranked the second-most expensive public college right behind the University of Pittsburgh. Therefore, at Penn State student debt is a painful reality for many students.

Financing degrees

In 2015, 56 percent of students who graduated from Penn State had taken out loans to finance their education. The average amount that students had borrowed was upwards of $35,000. These types of loans include: Direct subsidized Stafford loans, direct unsubsidized Stafford loans, direct PLUS loans, Federal Perkins loans, university loans, and private loans.

This is just about half of the student body taking out loans to finance their education. While the amount of money that students borrowed may be lower compared to private universities, it is quite a high cost for a public college.

Education programs

However, taking out a loan is a serious responsibility. A responsibility of which many students do not understand the gravity when they initially apply for their student loans at age seventeen or eighteen. Therefore, Penn State offers programs that attempt to let students know about the debt they are accruing while getting their education.

Penn State actually has a variety of really great websites that consolidate the resources available to students both through the university and through state and federal governments. The Student Aid website helps consolidate the resources available to borrowers. Many of these services are offered through the federal government (where many students get their loans). This includes things such as loan counseling, creating a student budget, and filling out the FAFSA. These resources are actually very helpful for navigating the intense process of first-time borrowing.

In addition, Penn State also has an Office of Student Financial Services that also offers advice and resources to Penn State students that are working on financing their education. On their website they offer great information about loan servicing including things such as loan consolidation, deferment, as well as different ways to pay loans.

Loan counseling

Another interesting thing that Penn State requires of students that took out loans is loan exit counseling. This online counseling program serves to give students a sense of how they will pay off their loans, so that they will not default on their payments. While this is of course self-interested on the part of the university (they need to make back the money on university loans) it serves as a helpful tool to students who are learning to manage thousands of dollars in debt and the very hard transition from being a student to being a part of the workforce.


In general, Penn State seems to offer really great resources to students who are paying off their college debt. However, it is worth mentioning that Penn State must offer such great services because their cost of attendance is so high for a public university. Penn State has to offer great resources to students taking out loans because more than 50 percent of students will graduate with student loan debt.

While the ways in which students repay their debt may not need evaluating at Penn State, the fact that so many students have so much loan debt may be worth further scrutiny.