Colleges Flush With Cash Saddle Poorest Students With Debt

New York University is among the country’s wealthiest schools. Backed by its $3.5 billion endowment, the school has built campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, invested billions in SoHo real estate, and given its star faculty loans to buy summer homes.

But the university does less than many other schools when it comes to one thing: helping its poor students.

A ProPublica analysis based on new data from the US Department of Education shows that students from low-income families graduate from NYU saddled with huge federal loans. The school’s Pell Grant recipients – students from families that make less than $30,000 a year – owe an average of $23,250 in federal loans after graduation.

That’s more federal loan debt than low-income students take on at for-profit giant University of Phoenix, though NYU graduates have higher earnings and default less on their debt.

NYU is not the only university with a billion-dollar endowment to leave its poorest students with heavy debt loads. More than a quarter of the nation’s 60 wealthiest universities leave their low-income students owing an average of more than $20,000 in federal loans.

At the University of Southern California, which has a $4.6 billion endowment, low-income students graduate with slightly more debt than NYU’s graduates: $23,375. At Boston University ($1.5 billion endowment), it’s $27,000, and at Wake Forest University ($1.1 billion endowment) low-income students graduate with $29,150 in debt.

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