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A monthly conversation with Missouri State University President Clif Smart.

Graduates Will Soon Turn Attention to Paying Down Debt

Scott Harvey

Over 2,300 students will graduate from Missouri State University during commencement ceremonies Friday. Two-thirds of those students, on average, will leave with $25,000 in debt.

MSU President Clif Smart says that’s a manageable number for most students going into a professional career.

“The horror stories of people graduating with $300,000 worth of debt – that doesn’t happen here,” Smart says.

But the jobs students obtain after college will determine how scary that debt may be, and how long they’ll be paying it down.

Smart says 90 percent of MSU students are either accepted to grad school or have a job in their field within six months after graduating. 

“I can give you those numbers. We may not be able to count 100 percent of our students because when they leave here they have to voluntarily interact with us.”

He says an initiative of the Board of Governors is to better connect with those outgoing students, via services like LinkIn, better communication with university departments, and asking for specific contact information from each student prior to graduation.

Smart adds that schools in Missouri have increased the cost of tuition over the last six years less than that of inflation at 9.7 percent. Nationally, tuition has gone up 27 percent over that time.

“For this fall, we have no increase in our in-state undergraduate tuition. It’s still $204 a credit hour. It was $204 a credit hour this year. So in terms of affordability, I think we’re fighting the good fight and we’re winning,” Smart says.

Despite these costs, not every student will have a manageable amount of debt upon graduation, and that’s where counseling from school officials comes in, according to Smart.

The cohort default rate measures students two and three years after they graduate to determine how many have defaulted on their loans. For those that graduated in 2010, 14.7 percent of the nation’s borrowers had defaulted, based on data compiled by the US Department of Education. For a Missouri State student that graduated that year, the default rate is 8.5 percent. Search for your school default rate here.

Last fall, we brought you stories on debt in the Ozarks, including student debt. See our reports on analyzing student debt and counseling services available.

And hear our entire conversation with President Clif Smart, as part of our monthly program Engaging the Community, by clicking play above.

Scott joined KSMU in November 2012. He had previously served five years as news director for KETR-FM, the public radio station in Commerce, Texas. A graduate of Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Scott enjoys producing human-interest stories, among other pieces that educate and engage the community. When not at work, he’s often taking part in outdoor activities, exploring new areas and restaurants, or staying up-to-date with the latest news and information. Scott was born and raised in Shenandoah, Iowa.