The signs are hard to miss in downtown San Francisco: two stylized A’s inside a red circle, symbolizing the Academy of Art University. The for-profit school occupies more than 40 buildings throughout the city and has made its family owners very rich.
Where does the Academy of Art’s money come from? About $100 million per year arrives as tuition and fees financed by federal student loans. The full scope of the borrowing was revealed May 21, when, for the first time, the Department of Education released information about how much debt students are taking on to earn degrees from various academic programs at American colleges and universities.
The data shows one sector in particular with outsize debt: graduate school. And while the Academy of Art fosters unusually high burdens, many public universities and nonprofit schools have also gotten into the debt-fueled graduate school business.