York College has lowest student debt in the country: study

Aaisha Joseph in the main lobby of York College.
THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

York College has a way of keeping money in their students’ pockets.

The college, which is part of City University of New York, has the lowest student debt average in America. A study by The Institute for College Access & Success in 2013 found that the four-year college had an average student debt of $2,271. In New York state, the average student debt is $26,381

York College stands apart at a time of rising tuition and talk of an economic bubble developing in the increase of student loans. In 2013, seven in 10 graduating seniors at public and private nonprofit colleges had student loans. The average debt for these graduates was $28,400, according to the college access institute.

York College President Marcia Keizs noted that the school’s low debt is mostly due to the fact that 72 percent of the 8,259 students receive city and state financial aid that covers their whole tuition. But the secret in that, Keisz said, is making sure that all eligible students actually go through the paperwork-intensive process of applying for student aid to cover the school’s in-state tuition of $6,396.

“Students are being conscious of theirs choices,” Keisz said. “They’re keeping that debt ceiling low and they’re not being reckless.”

During the student aid application season in the spring, Keisz and the school’s faculty participate in a campaign to encourage students to apply for aid.

“Over the last seven years we’ve been much more aggressive in marketing financial aid,” Keisz said. “We have these big banners that remind students.”

On the banners it says, “Early filings keep you smiling.”

“Yeah man, those banners are funny but they do the trick,” said Xavier Crandle, a graduating senior at York College who is debt-free.

But Crandle once had student debt. He began his higher education path at a community college upstate. At the time he received some financial aid but he took out a loan to cover the rest of his tuition. The school was going to reduce his financial aid so he decided to enroll closer to home at York College, where he was able to get enough in financial aid, scholarships and grants to cover his costs.

“One of the reasons I wanted to come here is because I knew financial aid was easy to get,” said Crandle, who lives in Jamaica and wants to eventually study at Harvard’s business school.

Student Aaisha Joseph was also attracted to the school because the faculty makes applying for financial aid so easy.

“I’ve never had to take out a loan and I’m so grateful,” Joseph said. “I came to this wonderful school debt-free and I will graduate debt-free.”