These Master’s in Social Work Programs Leave Students With the Least Debt
Editor & Writer
Editor & Writer
- A master's in social work degree is necessary to become a licensed clinical social worker.
- Earning this degree, however, often leads students to take on more than $10,000 in debt.
- Public institutions lead to some of the lowest debt loads in the country.
- A master's degree from a private, nonprofit will likely lead to more debt.
Social work can be a rewarding career, but it often takes a master's degree to unlock the field's full potential.
People need a master's in social work (MSW) degree to become a licensed clinical social worker. Many universities across the U.S. offer this degree, but the various programs can leave students with vastly different student loan debts.
A BestColleges analysis of HEA Group data found that public universities, on average, tend to leave students with the lowest debt loads.
Private, nonprofit universities, meanwhile, tend to lead to more graduate loan debt.
MSW Programs With Lowest Overall Debt
Debt loads vary by student and are often dependent on individual circumstances.
National data, however, may paint a picture of not only affordability but how much in federal student loans the typical student will take out to complete their MSW program. This data may also offer insights into the availability of institutional financial aid like grants and scholarships.
|Institution||Sector||Median Stafford and Grad PLUS loan debt||Borrower count|
|University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus||Public||$14,700||33|
|Brigham Young University||Private, nonprofit||$15,500||29|
|California State University, Chico||Public||$18,968||47|
|Appalachian State University||Public||$19,513||62|
|University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh||Public||$19,712||40|
|University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley||Public||$20,015||121|
|Middle Tennessee State University||Public||$20,374||30|
|Austin Peay State University||Public||$20,500||33|
|Inter American University of Puerto Rico, Metropolitan Campus||Private, nonprofit||$20,500||31|
|University of Wisconsin, Green Bay||Public||$20,500||83|
|Utah State University||Public||$20,500||37|
|Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville||Public||$22,048||38|
|San Diego State University||Public||$22,395||62|
|Texas A&M University, Commerce||Public||$22,727||96|
|St. Cloud State University||Public||$23,636||67|
|California State University, Fresno||Public||$23,688||40|
|San Francisco State University||Public||$23,688||21|
|Stephen F. Austin State University||Public||$23,906||81|
Source: The HEA Group
To put these figures into perspective, there were 49 MSW programs where the median student loan debt after graduation was more than $50,000 per student. The University of Southern California (USC) topped the list, according to HEA Group, with a median debt of $125,849.
MSW Programs With Lowest Debt-to-Earnings Ratio
Overall debt isn't always the best measure of a program's return on investment (ROI).
A program with low overall median debt that leads to low earnings after graduation, for example, may not offer the best bang for a student's buck. In these cases, it's beneficial to look at a program's debt-to-earnings ratio, which incorporates the median earnings of graduates four years after graduation.
Public universities tend to offer the best ROI, on average.
|Institution||Sector||Median Earnings, Four Years After Graduation||Median Stafford and Grad PLUS loan debt||Debt-to-Earnings Ratio|
|California State University, Chico||Public||$65,727||$18,968||28.9%|
|Brigham Young University||Private, nonprofit||$53,066||$15,500||29.2%|
|San Francisco State University||Public||$76,789||$23,688||30.8%|
|California State University, Fresno||Public||$70,508||$23,688||33.6%|
|University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh||Public||$58,643||$19,712||33.6%|
|University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley||Public||$59,435||$20,015||33.7%|
|San Diego State University||Public||$65,641||$22,395||34.1%|
|California State University, Monterey Bay||Public||$72,624||$25,500||35.1%|
|University of Wisconsin, Green Bay||Public||$55,484||$25,500||36.9%|
|California State University, Los Angeles||Public||$74,287||$29,958||40.3%|
|St. Cloud State University||Public||$58,210||$23,636||40.6%|
|Middle Tennessee State University||Public||$50,042||$20,374||40.7%|
|Appalachian State University||Public||$47,270||$19,513||41.3%|
|Ferris State University||Public||$59,534||$24,600||41.3%|
|California State University, Long Beach||Public||$73,124||$30,414||41.6%|
|Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville||Public||$52,962||$22,048||41.6%|
|Texas A&M University, Commerce||Public||$54,492||$22,727||41.7%|
|Austin Peay State University||Public||$48,656||$20,500||42.1%|
Source: The HEA Group
Thirty-four programs had a debt-to-earnings ratio at or above 100%. That means the average student in these programs would owe more after graduation than their annual salary four years later.
USC once again led the way with a debt-to-earnings ratio of 195.3%.