students are in school, during a grace
period and during periods of deferment.
But that changed in 2012 with the
passage of the Budget Control Act,
which eliminated graduate students’
eligibility for the subsidized loan program. As a result, the U.S. Department of
Education no longer pays for the interest
accumulated on the federal student loans
that graduate students take out while
they are still in school, six months after
they graduate or during deferment. The
change could cost a graduate student
$5,000 to $15,000.
In addition, student-loan interest rates
for graduate students are now higher
than the rates charged to undergraduate
students—meaning borrowing is more
expensive for graduate students.
Adding to that concern is the fact
that psychologists’ average debt loads are
nearly five times greater than the average
debt of all research doctoral-degree holders. Part of the reason for that difference
may be that over the last two decades,
more psychology graduate students are
attending programs that offer little or no
financial support for students.
What is APA doing about it?
In addition to conducting the survey to
quantify psychology student debt and
help define the problem, APA is supporting the Protecting Our Students by
Terminating Graduate Rates that Add
to Student Debt Act, also known as the
POST GRAD Act. Championed by Rep.
Judy Chu (D-Calif.), and introduced
at the urging of APA members, the
their significant education debt.
As a recent study by APA found, the
median anticipated final graduate debt
load for current psychology students—
excluding undergraduate debt—is
$110,000. When broken down by subfield, students in health service provider
fields had a median debt of $120,000,
while those in research and other fields
had $72,500. For students pursuing
a PsyD, it’s $160,000 (Training and
Education in Professional Psychology, 2016).
The APA study also looked at debt
among early career psychologists, those
who graduated in the last 10 years. It
found that the median total debt was
$80,000, with health service providers
averaging $95,000 in debt, and debt
for researchers and those in other fields
averaging $58,000. Psychologists who
had earned PsyD degrees owed the most
Why is student debt such a problem
In recent years, federal support for graduate education has decreased significantly.
For nearly 50 years, both undergraduate and graduate students were eligible
for the Federal Direct Subsidized Loan
Program. Under this program, the federal
government pays loan interest while
APA WORKS TO REDUCE
STUDENTS’ STAGGERING DEBT
APA and its members are advocating for a new law that would help ease
the debt burden for graduate students, which has increased in recent years
For more information on
managing student debt, see APA’s
“Affording and Repaying Grad
School” toolkit at www.apa.org.