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WGU Undergraduate Students Graduate with Nearly Half the Debt of Their National Peers

The CollegeBoard data confirms WGU students borrow less than students nationwide

Nov 28, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY (NOVEMBER 28, 2023) — Undergraduate students at Western Governors University (WGU) graduate with nearly half the debt of their peers nationally, based on the recently released CollegeBoard Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2023 report.

The average student loan debt for WGU undergraduates who borrowed for school and graduated between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023, was $15,218, with a median debt of $12,854. Nationally, the average student debt among borrowers was $29,400 for 2021-22 bachelor’s degree recipients from public and private nonprofit four-year institutions, according to the report.

“WGU is proving that affordability, financial literacy, and an innovative learning model create an effective framework for graduate return. When students succeed academically, and as graduates flourish professionally, they are better positioned to repay student loans,” said Patti Kohler, the Vice President of Financial Aid at WGU. “From application to graduation, we empower our students to borrow responsibly by giving them the tools they need to make informed decisions.”

WGU addresses the student loan debt problem with affordable, high-quality degree programs combined with an award-winning student financial literacy program, called the Responsible Borrowing Initiative (RBI). In 2013, WGU launched the RBI, a personalized student advising program aimed at encouraging students to borrow only what they need—not all they are eligible for.  

This program has significantly reduced the amount of debt students take on. For example, in the 2012-13 academic year, 65 percent of WGU students accepted the recommended amount in federal loans and 10 percent declined loans altogether. In comparison, a decade later, in the 2022-23 academic year, 48 percent of WGU students accepted the recommended amount for federal student loans and 21 percent declined loans altogether. Additionally, WGU graduates reported an average increase in salary of $29,200 within four years of graduation, according to a 2022 survey of graduates by Harris Poll Online.  

WGU’s RBI program has been so successful, in 2021 the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators awarded WGU with a Gold Star Award, which recognizes innovative ideas in financial aid. 

WGU was founded to reinvigorate the promise of higher education. Through a combination of low costs, workforce relevance, and the ability to accelerate time to degree completion, WGU graduates earn a greater return. Building on that foundation, WGU continues to share its best practices on RBI for colleges and universities across the country to adopt similar concepts to reduce student loan debt.

“We don’t need more amplifiers of the problem; we need more communicators of the solution. A decade later, it’s clear the RBI program is making a significant difference in student financial wellness,” said Bob Collins, senior advisor in the Office of the President, who helped launch the RBI program in 2013. 

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