Seven in 10 graduating seniors at public and private nonprofit colleges, or 69 percent, carried student loan debt in 2013, with the national average debt at $28,400.
That’s two percent higher than for public and nonprofit graduates in 2012 ($27,850), according to a new report by The Project on Student Debt, an initiative of The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), a nonprofit group that works to make higher education more affordable.
The report stresses that student loan debt varies greatly by state and by college. In six states, the average student loan burden surpassed $30,000.
Private loans made up about one-fifth (19 percent) of the Class of 2013’s debt. These loans usually carry tougher terms and interest rates, and they don’t have the repayment options found with federally-subsidized loans.
Recent graduates still face a tougher job market than before the recession, with a 2013 unemployment rate of 7.8 percent, says the TICAS report. However, it’s less than half the 2013 rate for those who only finished high school (16.5 percent).
Federal Loans Come with Consumer Protections
“A college degree is still the best path to a job and decent pay, and while loans are increasingly needed to get through school, graduating with burdensome debt is not a foregone conclusion,” said Lauren Asher, TICAS president. “Where you go to college matters, and the kind of loans you have matter, too. Federal student loans come with crucial consumer protections like income-based repayment plans, while private loans offer little or no relief if you hit a rough patch.”
Average debt at graduation varies even more widely from college to college, from less than $2,500 to more than $71,000 in 2013. The odds of graduating with loans also vary from 10 percent to 100 percent.
At the state level, borrowers’ average debt at graduation ranges from $18,656 to $32,795, with six states surpassing $30,000 and only one under $20,000. Nearly all the highest debt states are in the Northeast and Midwest, with the lowest debt states in the West and South. See charts below: