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Average College Student Debt tops $25,000: Report

High-debt colleges concentrated in Northeast and Midwest

| BY Donald Liebenson

The Class of 2010 hit the adult with three strikes against them. Strike one: Unemployment for their age group at 9.1 percent. Strike two: A tough job market. Strike three: An average student debt above $25,000.

A new report from the Institute for College Access and Success’ Project on Student Debt estimates that two-thirds of college seniors who graduated in 2010 carried student loan debt, with an average of $25,250 for those with debt, up five percent from the previous year.

“Some thought the jump would be even higher because of the economic downturn,” said report author Matthew Reed in a statement, “but increased grant aid helped at least partially offset lower family incomes and higher tuitions while the Class of 2010 was in school.”

The survey comprises more than 1,000 colleges, representing half of all public and private nonprofit four-year schools and three-quarters of the Class of 2010. The states with the highest average debt for 2010 graduates were concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest, while states with the lowest debt are in the West. New Hampshire had the highest average debt at $31,048, the report found, followed by Maine at $29.983. Utah and Hawaii had the lowest average debt at $15,509 and $15,550, respectively.

Among the high-debt private nonprofit colleges and universities with an average date from $40,400 to $55,250 are, alphabetically, California Institute of the Arts, New York University, Florida Institute of Technology and Minneapolis College of Art and Design. 

As Millionaire Corner reported earlier this week, a new report on college pricing trends from the College Board finds average tuition and fees at the public colleges are up 8.3 percent in the current school year, while comparable costs at private colleges rose 4.5 percent. Increases in college tuition costs have not deterred students from pursuing higher education, said the College Board, which reports a 22 percent increase in college enrollment between the 2005-06 and 2010-11 school years. “The fact that students are finding ways to finance their education is largely explained by the understanding that more education generally leads to higher earnings throughout life,” said the College Board in a prepared statement.

Meanwhile, President Obama recently announced steps to ease repayment of federal student loans, including a cap limiting student loan payments to 10 percent of discretionary income and forgiveness of debt after 20, instead of 25, years.

Student debt levels are impacted by several factors, the Project on Student Debt study noted. Most of the students of the Class of 2010 entered college before the economic collapse, while state budget cuts led to tuition increases at some public colleges, increasing the need to borrow. “On the other hand,” the report said, “federal grant aid increased while the Class of 2010 was in college. These increases may have helped mitigate the other factors, keeping student debt from growing faster than it has in recent years.”

The report recommends that student and families look beyond published tuition and fees for a college to include the full “cost of attendance,” which includes books, supplies, room and board, transportation, and personal expenses. Beginning Oct. 29, all college web sites are required to include net price calculators to assess affordability

About the Author

Donald Liebenson

Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.  

A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.