NYU Has Highest Total Student Debt in the Nation

Are we surprised that at NYU, where tuition plus room and board costs well over $50K, the combined student debt is the highest in the country? It’s true: NYU has topped out the list of not-for-profit universities with the highest amount of student debt. The number is an incredible $659 million. More than Oprah Winfrey’s yearly pay, and, as Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan pointed out, more than the GDP of 12 countries.

The number comes from a study by the U.S. Department of Education. While we came in fourth for total student debt when compared with schemey “for-profit” “schools” like the University of Phoenix, we came in first compared to other not-for-profit schools, including massive schools like Ohio State and USC.

Now, NYU is a huge school, and this number is for all the student debt combined. We have a lot of students. And knowing NYU, this doesn’t necessarily come as a shock. But still: holy shit.

And, even knowing all this, almost 5,000 fresh-faced 18-year-olds are going to flood the school in two weeks and take on their own debt, adding to that total. This, in a country where student loan debt is now greater than credit card debt, where the unemployment rate for recent graduates is 10.6 percent, and where an undergraduate degree is maybe not the golden ticket to success that it once was.

Is it all worth it? Guess we’re the ones who will find out.


    Share Your Thoughts


  1. says

    I owe $186,00 in outstanding student loan debt from NYU. The worst part of this is that the majority of it is from private loans, meaning they are not required to work with me on making my payments more affordable based on my measly entry-level salary.

    While I know that the majority of the responsibility of this lies on my shoulders and I wish I had known better when I signed on the dotted line, NYU’s financial aid department should not just be handing out financial aid packages to 18 year-olds for loans that will cost them upwards of $1,200/month in payments after they graduate.

    And I know I’m not the only one in this situation.

  2. Kelly Bober says

    It happens on every college campus across the country. It’s disgusting. The financial aid departments should be ashamed of themselves. My husband and I have a combined $180,000 and our monthly payments are $1800/month, which is the same as our rent. We barely take home enough to cover those 2 and our other bills. They are 95% private loan companies who have ruined our credit, causing us to not be able to buy a home, and refuse to work with us. It’s crippling.

  3. Charles T. says

    Elisabeth & Kelly,

    I’m a bit perplexed at your disposition. You bemoan your current situations and even worst, blame other parties for your predicament (I even got the impression you viewed yourselves as victims); however, you had many opportunities to avoid this. Did NYU hide their cost of attendance from you upon your acceptance? Did you actually read your loan agreements upon receiving tens of thousands of dollars to cover your tuition? Here’s an obvious question, if you knew you would have to finance your education with debt, why didn’t you attend a public university? Why didn’t you simply attend a community college for two years then transfer thereby reducing the cost of your education?

    Please do not blame your school or lender for giving you what you formally requested. You’re adults, it time to start taking responsibility like one.

    Also, for full disclosure, I also attended a private university and have accumulated over $100,000.00 in debt.

    Good Luck


  4. Chelsea Greco says

    Simply put, NYU does NOT give enough support regarding financial aid. I am going into my senior year and am already $75k in debt with loans @ 7.8% interest. Glad to know that after I graduate and my loan bills start coming, I can blame NYU for my horrible credit.

    I love and appreciate my NYU education, and I know it is a great opportunity to go to this school – but something’s gotta give.

  5. Kelly Bober says


    The problem we have is that at the age of 18, with very little understanding of “the real world”, teens are forced to make the decision of what school to go to, how to finance that schooling and are told to sign on the dotted line, when really they do not fully understand the situation they are getting themselves into. Of course schools do not hide the cost of tuition from their students, that’s a ridiculous statement, but with no real world experiences to gauge that cost from, how is an 18 year old supposed to really understand the ramifications of graduating with 6 figure debt in 4 years? And do you think that when an 18 year old, who is eager to get to college to start their life on their own for the first time, can sit down and understand the 50 page loan document they are supplied by their lender? Most grown adults don’t understand all what is in those documents. All they know is for their entire lives they have been told they must graduate high school and attend the best college they can get into. Does anyone explain to them that depending on what they want to do in life, they might not need college and could make the same living without the debt? Or if they do need college, does anyone explain to them they even have the option of going to a community college and transferring? Going to a cheaper “less qualified” college when I was making my decision meant you wouldn’t be as successful in getting a good job once you were done. I don’t know about you, but I was told over and over again, by guidance councilors, teachers, colleges themselves and media that going to the best college I could get into was the only way to go.

    And by the way in the 4 years that I attended college the tuition more than doubled. I’m pretty sure that’s something that I did not sign on the dotted line for or fully understand the ramifications of at the time either.

    Of course we have taken responsibility for our educational debt.

    However, we have every right to be upset with the schools for the outrageous cost of an education and their financial aid offices for forcing whatever financial aid program they were pushing at the time on us (probably with kickbacks from their “preferred” lender).

    No one tells those 18 year olds that when they graduate and don’t make enough money to cover their payments (because the cost of education doubled but salaries did not) that there’s nothing they can do about it. Their credit is screwed for years. No one tells them that because those lenders are private lenders, they don’t have to work with you at all, even if you are trying to be responsible and make your payments. These private loan companies prey on recent grads with entry level salaries that don’t even come close to matching up to the payments due on their 6-figure debt. No tells them that instead of private funding the should get government backed loans that have repayment programs and options and even have laws in place to help in this crisis.

    No one told my husband and I that because of our 6 figure debt we wouldn’t be able to qualify for a mortgage so we can buy a house and start a family, or that we wouldn’t qualify for a car loan and would have to have a parent cosign that car loan. No one told us that our AMX card would be canceled after paying it on time for 4 years straight because and I quote “our amount of debt is alarming compared to your income”.

    I’m pretty sure I was told that educational debt was “good debt”. So why now is it being used against us?

    So do I feel like a victim? Yep!


  6. Devon Conroy says

    Kelly Bober:
    Yes, most 18 year old college students are essentially clueless. However, this does not excuse you from your adult responsibilities. You signed up for “good debt” now is the time to pay the price. You had to go to NYU, you had to live on campus (I’m assuming, with that kind of debt) and you had to sign the paperwork to do so. The formula for compound interest is rather simple, and does not involve math other than what we all learned in grade school.
    There is an epidemic of lack of personal responsibility with new college graduates bemoaning their massive amount of debt. This is what happens when you take out loans! Did neither one of your parents teach you about credit cards or debt?
    Your failure to think for yourself rather than blindly obey the media, guidance counselors and private lending companies is YOUR OWN FAULT. A college is a business, and as long as they have dumb students willing to sign their futures away for the next thirty years in debt they will continue to hike tuition cost.
    BTW, if you don’t have the financial sense to read the fine print, I wouldn’t start popping out babies or signing mortgages anytime soon.

  7. Chris DeSimone says

    Devon & Charles,
    It must be my fault Bush screwed up the economy and made it more dificult to acquire subsequent loans to continue my education. It was my doing that took away bankruptcy protection for student loans. Sorry everyone! I think it’s very unfair that someone can rack up thousands in credit card debt and just walk away from it, while we try to do something noble and become productive members of society only to graduate and find a big corporate dick in the ass.

  8. says

    Devon and Charles,

    I do accept responsibility for perhaps not understanding exactly what I was getting myself into when I signed up for my loans, but I had an older brother who went to Cornell, whose tuition is also out of control, who was able to finance his private loans in such a way that they were consolidated into an affordable payment plan once he graduated.

    I assumed I would be able to do the same thing. I’m sorry that I was unable to accurately predict the economic recession that would cause banks to stop offering private consolidation programs, but that, actually, isn’t my fault.

    I’m also not trying to refuse responsibility, but I do think that private institutions, like NYU, as the NY Times point out (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/29/your-money/student-loans/29money.html?adxnnl=1&ref=new_york_university&adxnnlx=1282599546-hJImfclkofBGmjKtSI7s1Q) , seem to only care about getting the tuition bill paid without taking into consideration what kind of incomes students may have after graduating, similarly to the mortage lenders in the housing crisis who didn’t verify people’s incomes before granting them loans. I think there’s blame to be had on both sides.

    Of course, neither NYU nor recent college graduates, like myself, could have predicted the economic downturn that is largely responsible for the student loan crisis. But I do think it is the responsibility of a financial aid office to work with students to arrange packages that are a little more realistic rather than just shoving any package in their face and presenting it as their best option. Forgive me for believing, as an 18 year-old, that my financial aid office was there to help me. As it stands now, the party that financial aid offices seem to be aiding the most are the universities themselves, not the students.

  9. Kelly Bober says

    Elisabeth & Chris – well said! :)

    Devon – I never said I wasn’t taking care of my adult responsibilities. I pay all my bills on time, I just struggle to do so (even tho I work 2 other jobs besides my full time 40 hour a week job) and think it’s disgusting the amount that they expect from me.

    I also never said I went to NYU. I went to an in-state school instead of my real choice of school which was an out of state school because I was trying to be responsible, even at 18 and knew that in state tuition was less. However, that in state school ending up being pretty much the same price as a private school by the time I graduated because of the states economic issues. I accumulated an excessive amount of debt and then once combined with my husbands school debt (he went to a 5 year polytech since he’s an engineer, he was also told he would have a much better career if he went to a tech school specializing in engineering instead of a state school with an engineering program) and now you have a recipe for disaster. We struggle every month to make ends meet.

    I also never said I was a “new college graduate”. I’m 27 years old and have been paying my school loans for 6 years now yet because of their ridiculous formulas and schemes they presented to “help” us make our payments more affordable when we first graduated 6 years ago and just couldn’t afford to make the ridiculous payments they demanded, we actually owe more now than we did when we started paying. That is why this is a crisis and the private lenders need to be regulated, colleges need to take responsibility for some of this and relief needs to get to people who did the right thing, got a college education, make good money and still can’t put food on the table because their entire paycheck goes straight to these loan companies.

    It has nothing to do with parents teaching us about credit cards, which of course they did. I haven’t racked up $185k in credit card debt. In fact, it’s disgusting that people can do that, declare bankruptcy and the debt goes away. My credit score is just as bad as it would be if I had declared bankruptcy, however I didn’t. All I did was go to college and make payments the best I could once I graduated, yet if you saw my credit score you would think I had declared bankruptcy, except for that silly little thing you would see, all the debt still there. So tell me how that’s fair?

    I have all the financial sense in the world. I haven’t signed on that dotted mortgage line yet because I know it wouldn’t be responsible with the current amount I owe a month in loans. If I wasn’t responsible I would be just like the millions of people who decided to sign knowing they couldn’t keep up with those payments. I understand that this is crisis, just like the mortgage crisis. However, just like credit card debt, those people were greedy & unnecessarily accumulated debt. They chose to get into a mortgage they couldn’t afford or charge a credit card up with things they couldn’t afford and are now being bailed out and aided. I chose to do what myself and everyone thought was the responsible thing to do and go to school to get an education so I could get a great job when I graduated. If you don’t see how messed up this situation is then you are clearly blind.

    I get it, clearly better than you do.

  10. Paige Gardner says

    Oh hey people! No one’s commented on this is about four months, so I wonder if anyone will even see this.

    I am a high school junior, and I’m so confused about where I want to go. I currently live in Pittsburgh and want to do a double major of Theatre and English. I have been searching all over for the right school. I finally laid eyes on University of Michigan, but the tuition was 50k for out of state! It was a shame because by the time I found that out I had my heart set on going there. Now I looked at NYU, and seeing all this financial problems, I don’t know what to do!

    Do you guys know if being an RA can lower your tuition soph-senior year? Because if I REALLY want to go to U-M or NYU, I would probably have to be one. Assuming both schools have one.

    I really just want to go to a nice school. U-M’s theatre program just sounded absolutely outstanding. Ugh, I hate looking for colleges. :(

  11. John F says

    Yeah, you can save a ton by being an RA. You get free housing (~13.5k/year) and free meal plans (~3k/year). Wish I did it, but oh well. Make sure you’re on top of it though, cause it’s a competitive process.

  12. Elizabeth G says

    I agree that universities are taking advantage of these 18 year olds who have no idea what they are getting into. They have never had to work with such enormous sums of money, so how much it is doesn’t really register. My dream school was NYU and although I knew $50,000 a year was expensive, I’d never paid a bill in my life and had NO idea how much that really was. I probably would have gone to NYU if it weren’t for my parents basically telling me absolutely not. Only now that I am paying roughly $6,000 a year to go to my state school do I understand how insane $50,000×4 is. Like I said, most 18 year olds can’t fully comprehend the consequences of taking on large debts, which is partly their fault, but these expensive schools that are taking full advantage of their lack of understanding should take just as much blame. There should be a required class for juniors/seniors in high school, or some sort of program that you have to attend before you take out a large loan if you are under a certain age that would explain the long term consequences of large debts. High school seniors are constantly told they won’t be successful if they don’t attend the best university. Their information is skewed, and they need to be informed about the other side of the story.

  13. Hannah Barz says

    I’m a freshman this year entering with a scholarship that pays for a little over half of my yearly tuition. The rest is covered with federal loans, work study, etc. Fortunately, Obama’s insistence on the importance of higher education ensures that my rates are steady, but that is neither here nor there. Two key things to remember when looking at these data 1. NYU is the largest private university in America 2. My freshman class has an unprecedented 16 percent international population. Almost all of these students are expected to pay full tuition, no government loans or scholarships. Now, many of these international families have the money to cough over without even thinking, but just as many pay an arm and a leg to get their student an American education in New York City. My suite mate had her parents forge a doctors note so she could pass Chinese P.E. because she’s a scrawny gal who can’t do push-ups. Again, I digress. 16 percent of the students have no chance at scholarships or federal aid, and maybe that is terrible, but it certainly presents a different way of viewing these numbers. I’m wondering if you examined debt for American students if it would be the same.


  1. [...] With $659 million (the amount is more than the GDP of 12 countries) of student debt, N.Y.U. ranks No. 1 as the university with the highest student debt among other not-for-profit schools like Penn State University, University of Southern California, Rutgers University. And as the average debt upon graduation at N.Y.U. is $35,000, $11,000 more than the national average, it is common for students to explore the highly debated question of whether or not higher education – specifically, N.Y.U. – is worth so much debt. [...]