A new report says Northwestern University is in the top five percent of schools in terms of how manageable student debt levels are for recent graduates.

The study by LendEDU compares the average earnings of recent recipients of bachelor’s degrees from various schools to the average student loan debt level carried by those graduates and uses that to create an indicator of the risk a school’s graduates will end up unable to pay off their loans.

Northwestern is ranked 33 among 1,004 schools in the study, with an average salary for recent graduates of $56,300 and an average debt load of $18,864.

The school could rank even higher on future editions of the report, given plans announed by NU last week to eliminate loans for incoming undergraduate students.

The salary data used in the LendEDU report comes from surveys conducted by, which ranks Northwestern 52nd for mid-career earnings at an average of $102,000 a year and 65th for earnings of recent graduates.

The average pay figures are heavily influenced by the percentage of graduates from a school with STEM — science, technology, engineering or mathematics — degrees.

Just 23 percent of Northwestern graduates participating in the survey said they had degrees in those fields — and only a handful of higher-ranked schools had a lower percentage of STEM degree recipients.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Unusual definition of risk
    I am surprised that they study defines “risk” as the total student debt per graduating student. It is still risky to spend a large amount of time and money on a college even if you do not borrow money to do it. It would be better to look at median income divided by average cost of tuition, fees and books. It is also not an easy thing to put together. The actual price of tuition is much different than the “sticker price” as described here

    Even better would be to include costs of students who attend but do not finish their degrees (a really big risk in some places), and adjust the income for what majors graduates had. We already know that engineering graduates get paid more.

    1. 529 Saver has it wrong.

      529 Saver has it wrong. Tuition IS the same as "sticker price". "Net price" is what is described in the link.  Risk versus reward is the classic economic standard.  Degree completion is another wholly different issue, but does not apply to top schools, like NU, which have very high completion rates.

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