Average Student Loan Debt Jumps to $26,600, Up 5%

Students who borrowed for college and graduated with a bachelor’s degrees last year, carry an average $26,600 in student loan debt, up from $25,250 in 2010, according to the Project on Student Debt at The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS).
About two-thirds of the Class of 2011 took out student loans, and private (non-federal) student loans comprised about one-fifth of what they owed, TICAS said.
The findings focus solely on public and private nonprofit four-year colleges, because so few for-profit colleges chose to report the necessary data.
Federal figures show that graduates of for-profit four-year colleges are likely to borrow significantly more than their counterparts at other types of colleges.
Moreover, graduates are facing a tough job market in addition to student loan debt.
The unemployment rate for recent college graduates was 8.8 percent in 2011, a slight drop from 2010’s record high of 9.1 percent.
College graduates are much better off than those without a college degree. The unemployment rate for young high school graduates was 19.1 percent in 2011, more than double the rate for those with bachelor’s degrees.
“In these tough times, a college degree is still your best bet for getting a job and decent pay,” said TICAS President Lauren Asher. “But, as debt levels rise, fear of loans can prevent students from getting the education they need to succeed.”
Average student loan date by state last year ranged from $17,250 to $32,450. High-debt states remain concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest, with low-debt states mainly in the West and South.
New Hampshire had the highest average debt at $32,450, followed by Pennsylvania at $29,950. Utah and Hawaii had the lowest and second lowest average debt at $17,250 and $17,450.
Actual state averages are likely higher than these estimates, which are based on data reported voluntarily by about half of all public and private nonprofit four-year colleges.
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