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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announces a proposal to provide free college tuition for qualifying students at public colleges in New York. (Courtesy: Cuomo's Flickr page) Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announces a proposal to provide free college tuition for qualifying students at public colleges in New York. (Courtesy: Cuomo's Flickr page)

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announces a proposal to provide free college tuition for qualifying students at public colleges in New York. (Courtesy: Cuomo's Flickr page)

By Dan Clark January 5, 2017

College graduates in New York owe about $30,000 in student loans on average

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said high levels of student loan debt motivated his proposal for free tuition at any public university or community college in New York state for students from families earning less than $125,000 a year.

"It is incredibly expensive, and the debt is so high it’s like starting a race with an anchor tied to your leg," Cuomo said of paying for college.  "Average college debt -- $30,000 per student."

The governor’s office projected 210,000 students would seek the benefit. If so, the program would cost the state $163 million annually by 2019.

So is Cuomo right about the average student debt load in New York state?

The average debt load

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York collected 2015 data on student loan debt in the state.

The Fed reports 17.9 percent of consumers in New York state have a student loan, and their average college debt is $32,200. That’s higher than the national average of $29,700, the Fed said.

The debt steadily increased for a decade. According to a September report from the State Comptroller’s office, the average student debt load in New York State increased by more than 47 percent between 2005 and 2015. The national average grew by 56 percent.

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Total student debt statewide more than doubled during that time period.

The Institute for College Access & Success, an independent, non-profit organization, pegged the average debt of the state’s college graduates in 2015 at $29,320. That ranked 18th highest among the states. Fifty-nine percent of the students graduated with debt, the organization said.

The average debt among graduates of State University of New York campuses was generally lower than their private college counterparts. The average debt for University at Buffalo graduates was $26,165, followed by those at Binghamton University, $25,844; SUNY Albany, $25,727; and Stony Brook University, $23,542.

The average debt for graduates fluctuated among private colleges in New York state. Among the higher averages were incurred by graduates of Ithaca College, $39,771; Rochester Institute of Technology, $38,198; St. Bonaventure University, $38,073; Fordham University, $37,607; and Syracuse University, $36,500, according to the institute.

The average debt was lower - but still significant - for graduates at other private universities: Colgate University, $20,859; Cornell University, $24,394; Clarkson University, $29,000; New York University, $30,480;  St. John’s University, $33,179.

Our ruling

Cuomo said the average college debt for those who borrowed for college in New York state is "$30,000 per student."

Cuomo gets it right, according to the Institute for College Access & Success, which analyzed debt for 2015 graduates in New York State. And his claim is about what the Federal Reserve Bank of New York calculates for all New York state consumers with college debt.

We rate his claim as True.

https://www.sharethefacts.co/share/6c028b6f-555c-48f4-93d1-624f0bc2ef81

Our Sources

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s announces plan for tuition-free college, Jan. 3, 2017

Regional Household Debt and Credit Snapshot, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Q4 2015, Released Aug. 2016

Student Loan Debt in New York State, State Comptroller’s Office, Sep. 2016, Accessed Jan. 3, 2017

Department of Labor Long-Term Employment Projections, Accessed Jan. 3, 2017

Email conversation with Cullen Burnell form the NYS Dept. of Labor

Email and phone conversation with Betsy Bourassa from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Institute for College Access & Success, Project on Student Debt

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Dan Clark

College graduates in New York owe about $30,000 in student loans on average

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