Southern Utah University outranks most Utah colleges for risk-reward indicator

SUU President Scott Wyatt teaches students in the Jumpstart GE class about history, Cedar City, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah University, St. George News

CEDAR CITY — The increasing cost of higher education has been put under the microscope recently, whether as a result of student demonstrations or political maneuvering. However, according to a recent study from LendEDU, a marketplace for student loans and student loan refinance, Southern Utah is able to boast of a university that is finding a good balance between the cost of attendance and the early career pay of graduates. Southern Utah University is not only second in the state for their risk-reward score but also in the top five percent out of more than 1,000 colleges nationwide examined by LendEDU.

According to a January report from MarketWatch, almost 70 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients graduate with student debt, with the average debt totaling over $35,000. Currently, over 42.5 million Americans have outstanding student loan debt, for a total of approximately $1.2 trillion, the second-highest type of debt after mortgages.

Stock image courtesy of, St. George News
Stock image courtesy of, St. George News

Market Watch attributes several factors to the increase in student debt over the past several decades, including:

  • Financial aid disbursements that haven’t kept pace with growing tuition costs
  • Increased need for a degree in order to be competitive in the job market
  • Increases in for-profit colleges such as University of Phoenix, ITT Tech, Devry and Capella, which are operated by private businesses

In an attempt to bring these issues to light and ensure that students and parents are making the best decisions possible when considering higher education, LendEDU developed their “College Risk-Reward Indicator.” They defined “risk” as the average student loan debt per graduate according to figures from The Institute for College Access & Success. Reward was defined as the average early career pay — median salary for graduates with less than five years of experience — as reported by PayScale.

LendEDU calculated the risk-reward for 1004 four-year colleges and universities by dividing the reward by the risk. At the top of the list was Princeton University in New Jersey, where the average student debt was $6,600 and the average early career pay was $61,300. At the bottom of the list was Springfield College in Massachusetts, with an average student debt of $41,659 and average early career pay of $31,900.

Southern Utah University ranked No. 45 out of the 1004 schools, with an average student debt of $14,978 and average early career pay of $40,600. Of the Utah colleges that reported these figures, only Brigham Young University received a higher ranking at No. 13 with an average student debt of $14,021 and early career pay of $51,700. Other Utah schools that reported their numbers to The Institute for College Access & Success and PayScale were ranked as follows:

  • Utah Valley University: No. 54 | Average student debt: $16,784 | Early career pay: $43,700
  • University of Utah: No. 84 | Debt: $20,019 | Pay: $48,100
  • Utah State University: No. 110 | Debt: $21,200 | Pay: $47,700
  • Weber State University: No. 190 | Debt: $26,148 | Pay: $51,100
  • Westminster College: No. 374 | Debt: $27,523 | Pay: $45,800

Southern Utah University President Scott Wyatt told St. George News that he attributed the university’s high score to the students. Wyatt said:

We have very good students. They are prepared for college studies. They secure good jobs on graduation. … SUU is a terrific investment, and we’re proud of our students and their preparation before college and their successes after.

Wyatt said the university’s efforts to assist students in graduating on time is probably another factor in their good risk-reward scoring, adding that 50 percent of Southern Utah University students have a bachelor’s degree within six years.

“We have by far the best graduation rate amongst regional universities in Utah,” Wyatt said. “That contributes to low debt. They get in and they graduate more rapidly and get out and get jobs.”

The full LendEDU report is available here.

Infographic courtesy of LendEDU, St. George News
Infographic courtesy of LendEDU, St. George News

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