Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

CPE study shows more Kentucky students graduating without debt

May 14, 2024

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According to a new report by the Council on Postsecondary Education, more students are completing an undergraduate credential debt free.  

The report, Undergraduate Student Debt Levels in Kentucky, examines debt trends affecting undergraduate students attending a KCTCS college or public university. Based on the analysis, the proportion of students graduating with loan debt fell nearly 15 percentage points over the last five years, from 58.1% in 2017-18 to 43.2% in 2022-23. This decline was even more pronounced over the decade, falling 20.8 percentage points since 2011-12.

“This good news is the direct result of efforts by legislators, CPE and public institutions to moderate tuition increases, award more financial aid, and provide greater financial literacy advising,” said Council President Aaron Thompson. “Encouragingly, we’re seeing debt levels fall across the board, even for underrepresented and low-income students at both two-year and four-year institutions.”

Among completers who graduated with debt, average loan balances fell from $29,224 to $26,414, a decline of $2,810 or 9.6%, over the same period. This general decline transcends degree levels and student demographics.

“Anecdotally, we hear that student loan debt is skyrocketing, but the data in Kentucky tell a different story,” said Dr. Christopher Ledford, associate director of data and analytics and the report’s lead author.

Other findings of the report include:

The report can be accessed at

These studies are part of a continuing CPE research series that informs efforts to make postsecondary education more affordable in Kentucky. A recent report demonstrating how unmet financial need impacts retention can be found at

Last Updated: 5/14/2024