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Government Relations Update

Selected Loan Debt of Social Work Students By State

Financing a higher education is becoming increasing difficult for many students and social work students are no exception. The majority of social work students must piece together a financial package from a variety of resources (i.e. scholarships, grants, loans, parental support), but far too often, the majority of the financial support comes from college loans.

Even greater financial difficulty awaits social workers following graduation. Some social workers finish their education with bachelor's degrees in social work (BSW), but the vast majority go on to complete master's degrees (MSW). Of course, some continue to pursue doctoral degrees (DSW/PhD). After four, five, six, or more years of education, social workers are offered positions in both the public and private sectors that often fail to adequately reward them for their educational attainment, professional licenses, and credentials.

Social work salaries continue to be among the lowest for professionals in general and for those with master's level educations in particular. In 2001, 22 percent of social workers earned under $30,000; 20 percent earned between $30,000 and $39,999; 18 percent earned between $40,000 and $49,999. The median salary for social workers with two to four years' experience was $35,600.

While social workers may be in positions that are personally fulfilling, due to their high loan debt and low income, many struggle financially and are forced to forego middle class aspirations, such as home ownership. For many of these dedicated professionals the financial burden becomes unmanageable and they are forced to leave positions that may be in desperate need of their skills and knowledge for positions that are more financially rewarding. In those cases, it is a loss for the social worker, for the children and families they serve, and for society at large. Programs, such as loan forgiveness, designed to address the economic hardship of social workers in highly critical, but low paying jobs, would help to address this disturbing situation.

What follows is information from selected states on the average loan debt of social work students, which serves to document the enormity of the problem. Personal stories from social workers struggling to pay off their student loans are available on the NASW Web site: www.socialworkers.org/advocacy/loanforgiveness

ALABAMA

University of Montevallo Montevallo , AL Undergraduate program

  • Average loan debt for undergraduate social work students: $8,000 - $10,000
  • Average starting salary in area for graduates with bachelor's in social work degree (BSWs): $23,000 - $25,000
University of Alabama Tuscaloosa , AL Undergraduate program
  • Average loan debt for undergraduate social work students: $19,000 - $20,000
  • Salary: 10-year loan payments on undergraduate debt along with other basic life expenses will be unaffordable on a social work salary, even with a Master's in social work degree (MSW)
CALIFORNIA
San Diego State University Undergraduate & Graduate program
  • 60 percent of the 700 students (400 graduate students and 300 undergraduate students) receive some form of financial aid
  • Average loan debt for undergraduates who graduated in 2002-03: $14,751
  • Average loan debt for graduate students who graduated in 2003-04: $30,791
COLORADO
University of Denver Graduate program
  • Average loan debt of Advanced standing Master's (MSW) students (earn Master's degree in one year): $28,816
  • With interest of 8.25%:

    Needed annual salary at 10% of gross monthly income:

    Over 10 years - $42,412
    Over 15 years - $50,319
    Over 20 years - $58,927

    Over 10 years - $42,415
    Over 15 years - $33,547
    Over 20 years - $29,463


  • Average loan debt of two-year MSW students: $42,485
  • With interest of 8.25%:

    Needed annual salary at 10% of gross monthly income:

    Over 10 years - $62,530
    Over 15 years - $74,190
    Over 20 years - $86,880

    Over 10 years - $62,530
    Over 15 years - $49,459
    Over 20 years - $43,440

HAWAII
Hawaii Pacific University Honolulu , HI Undergraduate program
  • Average loan debt (based on response of one-third of students): $43,514
INDIANA
Indiana University Bloomington , IN Undergraduate program
  • Mean loan debt (based on response of one-third of students): $17,764
MICHIGAN
University of Michigan Ann Arbor , MI Graduate program
  • The figures below are for graduates from August 2003, December 2003 and April 2004. Debt figures include both graduate (MSW) and undergraduate debt. Sixteen month and 20 month students enroll for 4 terms in the MSW program and Advanced Standing students enroll for 3 terms. All students began the program in Fall 2002.
  • Average loan debt for 16 month students (December graduates): $45,640
  • Average loan debt for 16 month students of color: $47,094
  • Average loan debt for 20 month students (April 2004 graduates): $37,599
  • Average loan debt for 20 month students of color: $37,292
  • Average loan debt for Advanced Standing students (August 2003 graduates): $36,728
  • Average loan debt for Advanced Standing students of color: $30,852
NEW YORK
Adelphi University Garden City, NY Graduate program

Average loan debt of 589 graduate (MSW) students (loans from undergraduate, graduate, or both): $14,000 - $24,000

Dominican College of Blauvet Orangeburg , NY Undergraduate program
  • Average loan debt for class of 2001: $14,277
  • Average loan debt for class of 2002: $15,773
  • Average loan debt for class of 2003: $15,165
PENNSYLVANIA
Eastern University St. Davids , PA Undergraduate program
  • Mean loan debt of students graduating with BSW degrees in May 2003: $18,900.
TEXAS
 Our Lady of the Lake University San Antonio , Texas Undergraduate program
  • Average loan debt 2001-2002: $21,171
  • Average loan debt 2000-2001: $20,910
  • Average loan debt 1999-2000: $18,700
VERMONT
University of Vermont Burlington , VT Graduate program
  • Loan debt reported by selected graduate (MSW) students: $27,000 - $60,000
  • Loan debt reported by MSW graduates: $21,000 - $80,000
VIRGINIA
Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond , VA Graduate program
  • Loan debt for graduate education (based on response of 75 out of 112 MSW graduates in 2001): most frequently reported range was $20,000 - $29,999; almost a third reported owing $30,000 or more
  • Loan debt for undergraduate education: most frequently reported range was $15,000 - $19,999. 10 students reported owing less than $10,000; 10 reported owing $20,000 or more; 4 reported owing over $30,000
WASHINGTON
University of Washington Seattle , WA Undergraduate program
  • Average loan debt for BSW students: $7,000 per year for a total of $14,000 over a two year period

Compiled: April 2004

 
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