MASON’S MATH: Tuition Debt Equals New Car

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University of Iowa President Sally Mason joined the state’s two other university presidents, Iowa State’s Steven Leath and University of Northern Iowa’s Ben Allen, before a house-senate appropriations committee Tuesday morning at the Iowa Statehouse.

Lawmakers have to decide how much money to give the universities so that the presidents can keep their pledge for the coming school year of a tuition freeze. The presidents estimate they would need a 2.6% overall increase in state funding to follow through with the freeze.

Mason also addressed concerns about student debt. Mason said, “Forty percent of our students graduate with no debt. Zero. And we’re very pleased about that. The remainder that borrow, borrow an average between $20,000 and $25,000 total for their college education. I don’t want to see that number go up. In fact, I would like to see that number come down.”

University of Iowa college students’ total debt in 2011 following graduation is $27,480, according to Institute for College Access and Success, which is higher than the national average. Iowa State’s graduate debt load is higher and UNI’s is lower. Mason said she uses student debt as a comparison with the cost of a new vehicle. She said she graduated with about $3,000 in student debt. Mason graduated in 1972 from the University of Kentucky. The price of a new vehicle, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, was $4,034 that year. The price of a new vehicle in 2012 is $30,748, according to truecar.com.

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