Error lands Citadel on list of high debt for students

Citadel officials say that an error has landed the military college on a list among the top 10 colleges and universities in the nation where graduates took on the most student loan debt.

Officials at The Citadel say a mistake in how the institution reports student loans to the federal government has landed the military college on a list of colleges and universities that leave students with the most debt.

U.S. News & World Report has listed The Citadel among the top 10 colleges and universities in the nation where graduates took on the most student loan debt. The Citadel came in second with the class of 2013 averaging $48,862 in debt. According to the report, 60 percent of The Citadel’s 2013 graduates took out student loans. St. Francis University in Pennsylvania took the top spot with its class of 2013 leaving with an average debt of $50,275.

But Tara Horne, dean of enrollment management, said the military college mistakenly omitted public loans for the class of 2013 when it reported that year’s data. That means the U.S. News report, Horne said, only included private loans for The Citadel, which tend to be higher in value.

When both types of loans are factored together, Horne said the average debt for the class of 2013 was $31,213, well below any of the college’s on the U.S. News list. The Citadel is correcting the error, Horne said, and the college plans to ask U.S. News & World Report to correct its list.

Cadet Ashley Williams, who is a junior at the military college, said he has roughly $78,000 in student loans, but he isn’t worried about how much debt he leaves with when he graduates in 2016.

Williams, who is the first person in his family to go to college, said he chose The Citadel for its unique military experience and its strong network of alumni, both of which he’s hoping will help him land a good job after college.

If anything, Williams said he thinks the college’s price tag is a steal.

“Honestly I think it’s a little inexpensive,” he said. “I think it’s a reasonable price for a place that will benefit you as much as it does.”

In-state tuition for the 2014-2015 school year at the military college is $11,098 but with additional costs such as room and board, uniforms, drying cleaning, books and haircuts, the total “all-in” cost for an in-state freshman is $26,374. Out-of-state tuition is $30,706 with an “all-in” cost of $45,982 for freshmen.

Of the school’s roughly 2,500 undergraduate students, 80 percent receive some sort of scholarship or financial assistance.

Horne said the school’s financial aid office provides “comprehensive counseling” to help students plan for the cost of college.

“We’re committed to educating families and students about the process and all of the opportunities available to them,” Horne said.