These 20 Schools Are Responsible for 20% of All Graduate Student Debt

Posted By Terri Williams on August 25, 2015 at 3:14 pm
These 20 Schools Are Responsible for 20% of All Graduate Student Debt

According to the Center for American Progress (CAP), twenty schools received one-fifth of all the money the government gave graduate students in the last academic year. Although only 12% of graduate students attend one of these 20 institutions, they received $6.5 billion, or 20% of all federal funds for post-graduate studies.

Below are the 20 schools that received the most student loan dollars from graduate students during the 2013-2014 academic year. The list contains one public university (Rutgers) – the rest are private or for-profit institutions.

Rank School Amount
1 Walden University $756,336,024
2 Nova Southeastern University $532,479,305
3 University of Phoenix $493,078,509
4 New York University $471,627,155
5 University of Southern California $460,167,597
6 Capella University $399,450,066
7 Liberty University $351,847,277
8 Midwestern University $335,146,070
9 Grand Canyon University $329,153,677
10 Strayer University $284,209,616
11 Columbia University $241,667,574
12 St. George’s University, School of Medicine (Grenada) $241,203,227
13 Kaplan University $226,598,462
14 Ross University School of Medicine (Dominica) $218,874,479
15 Georgetown University $214,982,053
16 DeVry University $214,752,052
17 George Washington University $206,524,570
18 Argosy University $201,828,298
19 Rutger, the State University of New Jersey $192,355,258
20 Western University of Health Sciences $185,081,134


Despite the staggering amount of debt at the post-graduate level, a report by New America reveals that most graduate debt is not for “high cost credentials” like a medical or law degree.  New America breaks down the percentage of students pursuing graduate degrees as follows:

Percent Graduate Program
4% Law
5% Medicine and Health Sciences (Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, etc.)
8% Master of Arts
11% Master of Business Administration
15% Other Master’s Degrees (Public Policy, Social Work, etc)
16% Master of Education
18% Master of Science


The Washington Post notes that the two foreign medical schools on the list, which are in Grenada and Dominica, are often used as an alternative for students rejected from America’s top medical programs, although the tuition at these schools is still comparable to what a student would pay at a prestigious U.S. medical school.

Graduate students account for a disproportionate amount of federal education dollars. Only 20% of college students are in graduate school, but they account for 40% of total student loan debt.

So – why is the debt load for graduate students so high? According to Adam Ruben, the author of “Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School,” students who work to support themselves through school are not able to devote all of their time to studying, and it may take them 10 years to get a PhD. To avoid this, Ruben says, “some students put themselves massively in debt – or they may receive a stipend that essentially covers their basic needs.”

In 2014, Angelique Pivoine, an
 SEO & PR Specialist
 at 911 Restoration in Van Nuys, CA, applied for PhD programs in Intellectual History. She says many students attend graduate school in part to defer payment on their undergraduate student loans. Even for students who get a stipend, Pivoine says it is barely enough to scrape by. “And remember that you are forgoing 5 
years of income progress,” she adds. “I applied to grad school because I enjoyed research, saved $2,000 for the
 application process, and had no student loan debt.”

Some students pursue a graduate degree to gain an edge on the competition or to increase their earning potential, and believe the return on investment justifies the cost.  Employees with a graduate degree typically earn more than their peers who only have a bachelor’s degree, although the amount varies by major.

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

You May Also Like