MANKATO, Minn. - Of all of the state colleges in Minnesota, the one in Mankato ranks near the bottom, when it comes to the cost of tuition.

"It's among the most affordable options in tuition and fees," said Minnesota State University-Mankato's Richard Straka, Vice President for Finance and Administration.

The average annual tuition at MSU-Mankato is $6,668.
In comparison the University of Minnesota's annual tuition is nearly double that at $11,287. But according to a recent study, Mankato students graduate with more debt than U of M students.

Thestudy conducted by the Institute for College Access and Success based in California found that after four years, students at MSU are graduating with more than $29,000 dollars of debt compared to the U of M which is at a little more than $28,000.

Officials at MSU-Mankato said a number of factors are at play.

"We have a large percentage of our students who qualify for Pell grants, which means they don't have the resources to contribute from their family's cash," explained Straka.

Straka said the Pell grants don't go as far as they used to and added that students will typically max out on state and federal loans and consequently turn to private ones. As long as a student or family qualifies, nothing stops them from taking out private loans, which can dramatically increase the debt.

Of the 15,000 students at Mankato, more than 10,000 receive some sort of financial aid.

School officials said the increase in need started when the state cut funding to Minnesota colleges.

Straka said at one time students paid about 30% of the cost of tuition, with the state picking up the rest of the tab. Today he said the student pays about 70% of costs.

"There's been a significant shift in the percentage of how our general fund is funded and it's shifted away from the state of Minnesota and toward the individual students through tuition," said Straka.

As a result, tuition increases, the borrowing increases and even for one of the cheapest tuition's in the state, the borrowing is at a record rate.

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