Smart Borrower Blog

College Debt Rises Unevenly Across the Country

Dec 4th, 2013 @ 7:57 PM by Amber Nelson

More U.S. college students are coming out of school with debt and with more of it, but the load is not shared equally across the nation, according to a recent report.

The Institute for College Access and Success, analyzed federal data from former students and a survey of over 1,000 colleges and found that 71 percent of class of 2012 graduates finished school with student debt, an increase from 68 percent of the class of 2008. Debt loads also increased with last year’s cohort coming out of school with an average of $29,400 in student loans, compared with the 2008 group’s average of $23,450.

As students continue to graduate with more and more debt, they will be less able to contribute to the greater economy, often putting off big life purchases and events.

“There’s a growing awareness of the importance of student debt, and there are many more tools available now for people to learn about costs, but we still have a long way to go in informing people about how to finance an education, and how much it varies from school to school,” said Lauren Asher, president of the institute in a New York Times piece.

The study also found that certain regions of the country produce more debt-laden students than others. The East and Midwest were on top with Delaware graduates having the highest average debt totals. The South and West were much lower with New Mexico graduates carrying the lowest debt burdens.

Asher encouraged students to be judicious about their college selection. In a press release she said, “Despite discouraging headlines, a college degree remains the best route to finding a job in this tight market. But students and families need to know that debt levels can vary widely from college to college.”

The Institute does acknowledge that it needs data from more schools to accurately track debt trends. “Right now, some colleges escape accountability by opting not to report their graduates’ debt, while those who do report are stuck on an unequal playing field,” said Matthew Reed, the report’s primary author. “Students, researchers, and policymakers need and deserve better and more complete information.”

About Amber Nelson
Amber Nelson is a seasoned mortgage industry writer and a regular contributor to and

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