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Why Staying in School Longer is Expensive in the Long Run

PayScale, a compensation software and data company, places the early career salary for SFA graduates around $47,600. PayScale defines early career salary as the typical median salary for those with zero to 5 years of experience in the field. With full-time undergraduate SFA tuition at $10,600 for the 2021-22 academic year, and room and board costing about another $10,966, the financial turnaround for an extra year in college is $69,166.

Why Student Debt is Bad for SFA 

Student debt has been a problematic issue for the SFA campus community. Earlier this decade, SFA’s default rate rose to over 15%. In response to this, SFA was informed by the United States Department of Education that student loans would be subject to a student loan holding period of 30 days. The penalty lasted three years, from the 2015 to 2017 academic years.

The 30-day hold kept textbooks out of students’ hands — especially students who were economically vulnerable. New first-time, full-time students could be left without textbooks for the entire first month of school, putting them in jeopardy of failing their courses. SFA tried to mitigate the effect with short-term loans, but there were not sufficient funds to handle all cases. For the university, downward pressure on grades, retention, and (ultimately) graduation were imposed by these student loan rules.

The three-year penalty was finished by 2018, so that hold no longer applies to SFA students. However, the current overall debt level for SFA graduates is significantly higher than the state average. Thus, the problem continues to fester, and it is no surprise that reducing student debt rose to the top of student, faculty, and staff concerns when the Quality Enhancement Plan selection process was opened up to the SFA community.

Fifteen to Finish Data Charts

Click each chart to see more details. View and engage with more institutional data from the Office of Strategic Analytics and Institutional Research.

chart showing the relationship between hours per term and G P A
Students taking 15 or more hours per term their first year tend to have a higher GPA.
chart showing the relationship between hours per term and retention rate
Students taking 15 or more hours per term their first year tend to have a higher retention rate.
chart showing the relationship between hours per term and four-year graduation rate
Students taking 15 or more hours per term their first year tend to have higher four-year graduation rates.
chart showing the relationship between hours per term and six-year graduation rate
Students taking 15 or more hours per term their first year tend to have higher six-year graduation rates.
chart showing the relationship between hours per term and graduating G P A
Students taking 15 or more hours per term their first year tend to have a higher graduating GPA.
chart showing the relationship between hours per term and time to graduation
Students taking 15 or more hours per term their first year tend to graduate in less time.