UCSB ranked number 18 in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine’s 2014 list of the top 100 “Best Values in Public Colleges” after a combined analysis of the university’s education and economic value.
When educational quality was factored out and the 100 best-value public colleges were re-ranked for lowest average student debt, UCSB ranked number 16. In both versions of the list, seven other UC campuses were also included, with UC Los Angeles ranking number 5 on the overall best-value colleges and UC Berkeley number 9 on the lowest student debt best-value colleges.
Kiplinger’s Personal Finance is one of the best known publications of Kiplinger, a Washington, D.C.-based media company that publishes business forecasts and personal finance advice and has a total paid circulation of its periodicals at over 850,000 readers.
According to College Board statistics reported in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, in-state tuition and fees increased by only 2.9 percent in the 2012-13 year, which is the lowest increase in over 30 years. However, the net amount of what students actually pay has increased by 1.8 percent to roughly $12,620, pointing toward a lag in financial aid.
Despite that, Michael Miller, Director of the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, said UCSB’s high rankings in the magazine’s list can be attributed to the stability of the university’s established financial aid programs.
“We are very fortunate to have the Cal Grant program as well as our UCSB Grant program,” Miller said in an e-mail. “Both are robust aid programs that allow us to keep student borrowing at manageable levels.”
In addition, Miller said proactive and financially responsible students play a major role in the status of the university’s education and economic quality.
“I also think the ranking is a credit to our students,” Miller said in an e-mail. “For the most part, they are financially aware and do what they can to keep costs down.”
Kristyn Keylon, Direct Loan Analyst for the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, said it is important that students be aware of their financial situation, including all options available to them, given the ever-intensifying problem of student debt.
“The majority of the people who come up and talk to us have no idea what types of loans they took out,” Keylon said. “We’re trying to get them to be more aware, because obviously there’s a huge difference between taking a federal loan versus a private loan.”
She also said some student debt could be avoided through better financial education, especially through utilization of informational programs on campus.
“What I’m working on now is actually creating workshops for current students on financial literacy. There are a lot of students who take out loans who don’t necessarily need to … There’s a lot of other resources on campus that I think a lot of students don’t take advantage of,” Keylon said. “So our aim is to help lower students’ debt, to make them more aware and to get them budgeting and saving.”
Keylon also said she urged students to pay attention to their loans from the moment they take them out, particularly for those students with unsubsidized loans that accrue interest while the student is still in school.
“If you don’t pay your interest [for unsubsidized loans] while you’re at school, that capitalizes once you graduate, and then you’re paying interest upon interest,” Keylon said.
She also noted that, if possible, working to repay interest while still in school could potentially reduce a lot of financial problems students face upon graduation. For many students, however, finding a balance between work and school can be difficult.
Miller said with the encouragement of the high ranking, the university will continue seeking to help students prepare themselves for the working world without having to worry about paying off extravagant student loans.
“In terms of continuing this trend, we need to be sure the state of California continues to fund the Cal Grant program to meet their commitment to California’s students,” Miller said in an e-mail. “The same goes for the University of California.”
“We need to remain committed to setting aside financial aid funding to the extent we have in the past. If we can maintain the relationship between the federal aid programs, the state of California, the University of California and the families we serve, then I believe a UCSB education will remain one of the best values in higher education,” Miller said.
Second year actuarial science major Daniel Soleiman, who works part-time, said he thought it more practical to finance his education through loans than to work his way through college without student debt.
“I’d have to work a lot of hours and my grades would drop to the point where it’s not even worth it,” Soleiman said. “I’d be paying to fail.”
However, Soleiman said that, although he worried about his loans, attending a UC is still preferable to a cheaper community college.
“It was either the loans or I don’t go to this school, I go to somewhere cheaper,” Soleiman said. “I could go to community college and try and pay for that myself, but [my parents] decided the UC was a good choice. It’s worth the money.”
Soleiman noted that although he has not yet felt the full extent of the financial burden, he expects that to change.
“In four or five years I’m probably going to start realizing, ‘Oh shit, this is what 35,000 dollars is. This is what being in debt is,’” Soleiman said.
Rachel Marracq, a second year communication major, said she would rather focus on her education and pick a school based on those factors, rather than worry too much about her student loan debt.
“No matter where you go, you’re going to have to pay a lot of money. And for the kind of work I want to do, you have to have a degree … So I figured I’m going to have debt no matter what, so I might as well make the most of it,” Marracq said.
But like many students, Marracq said her parents were shouldering a great deal of the financial responsibility.
“They didn’t really consult me on it. I just said, ‘Mom, I need to figure out loans.’ And she said, ‘Okay, here’s what’s happening,’” Marracq said.
Kiplinger’s ranking, however, does not take into account loans parents take out in order to help their children finance their education.
Soleiman, too, said much of his education was being financed by loans his parents had taken out, even though much of that burden would still fall on him.
“The vast majority [of the loans] are my parents’, but in a way they’re still my loans,” Soleiman said. “I’m going to pay them back.”
A version of this story appeared on page 5 of Thursday, January 30, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.