Last year’s graduating class owes, on average, 5 percent more in student loans than members of the class of 2010. Learn more about rising student debt levels.
Students who borrowed to finance their college degrees graduated with 5 percent more debt in 2011, compared to their counterparts in the Class of 2010, according to Project on Student Debt, an initiative by The Institute for College Access and Success or TICAS.
The average student debt was $26,600 for the class of 2011, up from $25,250 in 2010, for graduates from public and private nonprofit four-year colleges, according to TICAS, an Oakland, CA nonprofit group working to increase access to higher education. Roughly two-thirds of the class of 2011 took on student debt, according to TICAS, and private loans accounted for approximately 20 percent of that load.
Student debt levels varied by college, ranging from $3,000 to $55,250 in 2011, TICAS’ Student Debt and the Class of 2011 reported. The share of students graduating with loans also varied by school and ranged from 12 percent to 100 percent. As a general rule, more expensive colleges had students graduating with higher average debt levels.
High levels of unemployment are making it difficult for recent college grads to repay their student debt, according to TICAS. Unemployment for recent college graduates was 8.8 percent in 2011, with many more young graduates working part-time or in lower paying jobs. Young adults without college degrees faced even bleaker job prospects, according to TICAS, noting a 19.1 percent unemployment rate for recent high school graduates in 2011.
“In these tough times, a college degree is till your best bet for getting a job and decent pay,” Lauren Asher, TICAS president, said in a statement. “But as debt levels rise, fear of loans can prevent students from getting the education they need to succeed.”
TICAS calls for three federal actions to help students and their families navigate the student loan process:
1. Provide lists of the average debt at graduation at all colleges receiving federal funding, and give families key information needed to make sound decisions.
2. Reduce the need to borrow by increasing need-based grants and tax relief.
3. Curb predatory lending by requiring school certification of all private loans.
“Students need reliable information for all schools, and colleges that consistently and accurately provide their own debt figures deserve a level playing field,” Matthew Reed, author of the student debt study, said in a statement.