50 Colleges Where Parents Take Out the Biggest Loans to Pay Tuition

Parents are borrowing more than ever to send their children to college. Last year, one out of every four dollars in federal loans given out for undergraduate education went to people paying for a kid or grandkid's studies through the federal Parent PLUS loan program, with an average loan of $16,305—two to three times the maximum amount that traditional students are allowed to borrow in a single school year.

Over four or more years of college, the size of these parent loans often reach staggering amounts. An exclusive Newsweek analysis of federal data on PLUS loans has identified more than 150 schools where the median amount that parents borrow while their child is in school exceeds the maximum $27,000 that traditional undergraduates are allowed to borrow. The typical loan at the 50 schools that Newsweek has identified where parents borrow the most starts at nearly double that amount: $50,190. And at the school where parents borrow the absolute most, half take out loans of $84,000 or more.

How do the numbers get so big for parents, compared to their kids? Unlike the low annual caps placed on loans to undergraduates, parents are allowed to borrow up to the full cost of attendance each year (including room and board, fees, books and travel) minus any financial aid the student receives. That can add up quickly, considering that the typical four-year public institution cost $38,640 last year, including tuition, fees, room and board, while the tab hit $50,770 at the average private college or university.

Those private schools dominate the list of colleges where parents borrow the most, accounting for 46 of the 50 academic institutions named. Only one school on the list is a public college, Citadel Military College of South Carolina, and the remaining three are for-profit institutions.

Worth noting for families with a student interested in the arts: Eight of the colleges in the top 50 are art schools, with six of them landing among the 10 most expensive schools in terms of PLUS borrowing, led by Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York and Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida.

Although the amounts typically borrowed at all 50 of these schools are large, most parents do manage to keep up with payments. Within two years, 10 percent or more of parents are late paying their monthly bill or in default at just six of the schools on Newsweek's list.

There's a clear payoff to the borrowing for families too: Graduation rates at most of the colleges on this list are above the national average of 63 percent who earn their degree after six years of attendance.

The following are the 50 colleges and universities where parents took on the most PLUS debt, along with information on the portion of families struggling with those loans, the school's eight-year graduation rate and the share of lower-income parents taking on such debt at each school.

50. University of Scranton

PLUS: University of Scranton
A sports field at the University of Scranton. Angela Weiss/Getty Images

Scranton, Pennsylvania
Graduation rate: 77%
Median loan amount: $42,326
Default and delinquency rate: 3%
Low-income borrowers: 38%

49. Roger Williams University

Bristol, Rhode Island
Graduation rate: 59%
Median loan amount: $42,500
Default and delinquency rate: 6%
Low-income borrowers: 36%

48. Otis College of Art and Design

Los Angeles, California
Graduation rate: 64%
Median loan amount: $42,968
Default and delinquency rate: 5%
Low-income borrowers: 69%

47. Stevenson University

Location: Stevenson, Maryland
Graduation rate: 59%
Median loan amount: $43,000
Default and delinquency rate: 9%
Low-income borrowers: 50%

46. Champlain College

Burlington, Vermont
Graduation rate: 61%
Median loan amount: $43,374
Default and delinquency rate: 5%
Low-income borrowers: 40%

45. Marymount Manhattan College

PLUS: Marymount Manhattan College
People check in on move-in day at Marymount Manhattan College dormitory on Aug. 23, 2020 in New York City. Cindy Ord/Getty Images

New York, New York
Graduation rate: 47%
Median loan amount: $43,450
Default and delinquency rate: 6%
Low-income borrowers: 47%

44. University of Miami

PLUS: University of Miami
Educational building on University of Miami campus in Coral Gables, Florida. Gregobagel/Getty Images

Coral Gables, Florida
Graduation rate: 83%
Median loan amount: $43,807
Default and delinquency rate: 6%
Low-income borrowers: 46%

43. New York Film Academy

Burbank, California
Graduation rate: 71%
Median loan amount: $43,907
Default and delinquency rate: 9%
Low-income borrowers: 59%

42. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

PLUS: Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Kahleb Downing of Worcester Polytechnic Institute collects a pass against Yeshiva in the first half during the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship on March 6, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Worcester, Massachusetts
Graduation rate: 88%
Median loan amount: $43,921
Default and delinquency rate: 4%
Low-income borrowers: 35%

41. Sacred Heart University

PLUS: Sacred Heart University
The Sacred Heart University marching band marches past St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue during the 75th annual Columbus Day Parade in Midtown Manhattan on Oct. 14, 2019 in New York City. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Fairfield, Connecticut
Graduation rate: 64%
Median loan amount: $44,000
Default and delinquency rate: 6%
Low-income borrowers: 39%

40. Citadel Military College of South Carolina

PLUS: Citadel
The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. Sailaway46/Getty Images

Charleston, South Carolina
Graduation rate: 74%
Median loan amount: $44,318
Default and delinquency rate: 7%
Low-income borrowers: 34%

39. West Coast University-Los Angeles

North Hollywood, California
Graduation rate: 64%
Median loan amount: $44,376
Default and delinquency rate: 5%
Low-income borrowers: 76%

38. University of the Pacific

Stockton, California
Graduation rate: 73%
Median loan amount: $44,468
Default and delinquency rate: 5%
Low-income borrowers: 54%

37. Loyola University Chicago

PLUS: Loyola University Chicago
The Madonna della Strada Chapel on Loyola University Chicago's campus. Big Joe/Getty Images

Chicago, Illinois
Graduation rate: 74%
Median loan amount: $44,749
Default and delinquency rate: 6%
Low-income borrowers: 48%

36. St. John's University-New York

PLUS: St. John's University
Carnesecca Arena on the campus of St. John's University in the Queens borough of New York City. Porter Binks/Getty Images

Queens, New York
Graduation rate: 60%
Median loan amount: $44,887
Default and delinquency rate: 11%
Low-income borrowers: 56%

35. George Washington University

PLUS: George Washington University
The campus of George Washington University. Saul Loeb/Getty Images

Washington, D.C.
Graduation rate: 82%
Median loan amount: $45,000
Default and delinquency rate: 6%
Low-income borrowers: 36%

34. Baylor University

PLUS: Baylor University
Jay Lee of the Baylor Bears scores a touchdown against the West Virginia Mountaineers at McLane Stadium on Oct. 17, 2015 in Waco, Texas. Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Waco, Texas
Graduation rate: 75%
Median loan amount: $46,668
Default and delinquency rate: 6%
Low-income borrowers: 47%

33. Boston University

PLUS: Boston University
Student residences at Boston University. Jorgeantonio/Getty Images

Boston, Massachusetts
Graduation rate: 86%
Median loan amount: $46,768
Default and delinquency rate: 7%
Low-income borrowers: 40%

32. University of San Francisco

PLUS: University of San Francisco
Saint Ignatius Church at University of San Francisco. Bakstad/Getty Images

San Francisco, California
Graduation rate: 76%
Median loan amount: $47,920
Default and delinquency rate: 4%
Low-income borrowers: 46%

31. University of Southern California

PLUS: University of Southern California
University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles, California. Jupiterimages/Getty Images

Los Angeles, California
Graduation rate: 92%
Median loan amount: $48,307
Default and delinquency rate: 3%
Low-income borrowers: 42%

30. Hampton University

PLUS: Hampton
Jaekwon Carlyle of the Hampton University Pirates goes up for two at John Paul Jones Arena on Dec. 22, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Shaban Athuman/Getty Images

Hampton, Virginia
Graduation rate: 49%
Median loan amount: $48,606
Default and delinquency rate: 11%
Low-income borrowers: 54%

29. Boston College

PLUS: Boston College
A garden across from Boston College. Stresstensor/Getty Images

Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
Graduation rate: 91%
Median loan amount: $49,000
Default and delinquency rate: 4%
Low-income borrowers: 26%

28. Morehouse College

PLUS: Morehouse College
Graduates from the 2020 and 2021 class during the 137th Commencement at Morehouse College on May 16, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. Marcus Ingram/Getty Images

Atlanta, Georgia
Graduation rate: 55%
Median loan amount: $49,087
Default and delinquency rate: 11%
Low-income borrowers: 65%

27. Hofstra University

PLUS: Hofstra University
Kvonn Cramer of the Hofstra Pride at Rutgers Athletic Center on Nov. 29, 2020 in Piscataway, New Jersey. Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

Hempstead, New York
Graduation rate: 63%
Median loan amount: $49,197
Default and delinquency rate: 10%
Low-income borrowers: 47%

26. Loyola University Maryland

PLUS: Loyola University Maryland
Loyola Alumni Memorial Chapel at the Loyola University campus in Baltimore ,Maryland. Daniel Hanscom/Getty Images

Baltimore, Maryland
Graduation rate: 82%
Median loan amount: $49,245
Default and delinquency rate: 6%
Low-income borrowers: 33%

25. Texas Christian University

PLUS: Texas Christian University
Connor Cash snowboards down the steps of the Mary Couts Burnett Library at Texas Christian University after a snow storm on Feb. 17, 2021 in Fort Worth, Texas. Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Fort Worth, Texas
Graduation rate: 78%
Median loan amount: $49,248
Default and delinquency rate: 4%
Low-income borrowers: 32%

24. Bryant University

Smithfield, Rhode Island
Graduation rate: 78%
Median loan amount: $50,511
Default and delinquency rate: 5%
Low-income borrowers: 37%

23. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Daytona Beach

PLUS: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University airplane sits at the Gary Jet Center in Gary, Indiana on Aug. 16, 2012. AUGUST 16 2012. Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Daytona Beach, Florida
Graduation rate: 60%
Median loan amount: $50,696
Default and delinquency rate: 5%
Low-income borrowers: 54%

22. Drexel University

PLUS: Drexel University
A Drexel Dragons dancer performs at the Daskalakis Athletic Center on Feb. 22, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Corey Perrine/Getty Images

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Graduation rate: 66%
Median loan amount: $50,758
Default and delinquency rate: 7%
Low-income borrowers: 46%

21. The New School

New York, New York
Graduation rate: 71%
Median loan amount: $51,635
Default and delinquency rate: 6%
Low-income borrowers: 59%

20. Saint Mary's College of California

PLUS: Saint Mary's College
Chelsea Ross of Georgia State University jumps to block Payton Rund of Saint Mary's College at the 2017 USA Volleyball Collegiate Beach Championships. Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

Moraga, California
Graduation rate: 76%
Median loan amount: $52,037
Default and delinquency rate: 4%
Low-income borrowers: 44%

19. Belmont University

PLUS: Belmont University
The Curb Event Center on the Belmont University campus in Nashville, Tennessee. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Nashville, Tennessee
Graduation rate: 71%
Median loan amount: $52,490
Default and delinquency rate: 4%
Low-income borrowers: 33%

18. Fordham University

PLUS: Fordham University
Fordham University's Lincoln Center campus in New York City. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Bronx, New York
Graduation rate: 77%
Median loan amount: $52,686
Default and delinquency rate: 6%
Low-income borrowers: 32%

17. American University

PLUS: American University
Jamir Harris of the American University Eagles reacts during a college basketball game against the Lehigh Mountain Hawks at Bender Arena on Jan. 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Washington, D.C.
Graduation rate: 79%
Median loan amount: $52,884
Default and delinquency rate: 5%
Low-income borrowers: 36%

16. MCPHS University

PLUS: MCPHS University
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences on March 22, 2013 in Boston. Paul Marotta/Getty Images

Boston, Massachusetts
Graduation rate: 82%
Median loan amount: $53,794
Default and delinquency rate: 7%
Low-income borrowers: 62%

15. Saint Joseph's University

PLUS: Saint Joseph's University
The Saint Joseph's University Hawk mascot poses with Saint Joseph's University's athletic director Jill Bodensteiner. William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Graduation rate: 78%
Median loan amount: $54,068
Default and delinquency rate: 4%
Low-income borrowers: 28%

14. Howard University

PLUS: Howard University
Students and members of the administration at Howard University hold a rally against sexual assault on the campus of the university April 11, 2016 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee//Getty Images

Washington, D.C.
Graduation rate: 62%
Median loan amount: $54,285
Default and delinquency rate: 13%
Low-income borrowers: 68%

13. The Catholic University of America

PLUS: Catholic University of America
Gibbons Hall dormitory at the Catholic University of America. Amy Sparwasser/Getty Images

Washington, D.C.
Graduation rate: 72%
Median loan amount: $54,628
Default and delinquency rate: 8%
Low-income borrowers: 33%

12. Quinnipiac University

PLUS: Quinnipiac University
Quinnipiac University men's college ice hockey team training at the TD Bank Sports Center at Quinnipiac University, in Hamden, Connecticut. Tim Clayton/Getty Images

Hamden, Connecticut
Graduation rate: 76%
Median loan amount: $57,949
Default and delinquency rate: 7%
Low-income borrowers: 36%

11. University of San Diego

PLUS: University of San Diego
The Immaculata Catholic Church on the campus of the University of San Diego. Siestacia/Getty Images

San Diego, California
Graduation rate: 80%
Median loan amount: $59,252
Default and delinquency rate: 5%
Low-income borrowers: 39%

10. Loyola Marymount University

PLUS: Loyola Marymount University
View of Los Angeles from Loyola Marymount University campus. Lisa Bronitt/Getty Images

Los Angeles, California
Graduation rate: 82%
Median loan amount: $60,500
Default and delinquency rate: 4%
Low-income borrowers: 43%

9. American Musical and Dramatic Academy

New York, New York
Graduation rate: 66%
Median loan amount: $61,411
Default and delinquency rate: 10%
Low-income borrowers: 60%

8. New York University

PLUS: New York University
New York University building on Fifth Avenue near Washington Square Park. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

New York, New York
Graduation rate: 85%
Median loan amount: $66,687
Default and delinquency rate: 5%
Low-income borrowers: 46%

7. Savannah College of Art and Design

PLUS: Savannah College of Art and Design
Whoopi Goldberg reacts after she receives an honorary degree during the 2011 Savannah College of Art and Design graduation ceremony on June 4, 2011 in Savannah, Georgia. Goldberg served as the commencement speaker at the school. Stephen Morton/Getty Images

Savannah, Georgia
Graduation rate: 65%
Median loan amount: $66,714
Default and delinquency rate: 6%
Low-income borrowers: 51%

6. School of Visual Arts

New York, New York
Graduation rate: 68%
Median loan amount: $70,445
Default and delinquency rate: 9%
Low-income borrowers: 60%

5. Berklee College of Music

PLUS: Berklee College of Music
Berklee College of Music on March 4, 2013 in Boston. Paul Marotta/Getty Images

Boston, Massachusetts
Graduation rate: 63%
Median loan amount: $72,056
Default and delinquency rate: 8%
Low-income borrowers: 44%

4. High Point University

PLUS: High Point University
Tonrak Tasaso of High Point University lines up a putt on the 15th green of the River Course at River Landing Country Club on March 09, 2020 in Wallace, North Carolina. Andy Mead/Getty Images

High Point, North Carolina
Graduation rate: 63%
Median loan amount: $73,101
Default and delinquency rate: 6%
Low-income borrowers: 32%

3. Ringling College of Art and Design

Sarasota, Florida
Graduation rate: 67%
Median loan amount: $76,470
Default and delinquency rate: 3%
Low-income borrowers: 56%

2. Pratt Institute

Brooklyn, New York
Graduation rate: 69%
Median loan amount: $76,882
Default and delinquency rate: 6%
Low-income borrowers: 54%

1. Spelman College

PLUS: Spelman College
Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Atlanta, Georgia
Graduation rate: 77%
Median loan amount: $84,671
Default and delinquency rate: 9%
Low-income borrowers: 66%

Notes: Data is from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2019. Default is defined as failure to make payments for more than 360 days, delinquent as failure to pay for 31 to 360 days. Median loan amount represents how much parents borrowed for each student who graduated or otherwise left school during the two-year period. Eligibility for a federal Pell grant, given to students with exceptional financial need, is used as a proxy for low-income borrowers; the data represents the percentage of Parent PLUS borrowers whose student is eligible for a Pell grant. Graduation rates are over eight years and current as of July 20,2021.

Source: College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education

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Illustration by Alex Fine for Newsweek

Correction 7/21/2021, 11:25 a.m. ET: This story has been updated to reflect the correct eight-year graduation rate for High Point University, as reported by the Department of Education's College Scorecard.