According to a recent study by the Institute for College Access and Success, the average college student who graduated last year has $26,600 in student loan debt. That is the highest in the seven-year history of the report.
Student loan debt up 5 percent
In 2010, the average amount of loan owed by graduates was $23,350. That means it rose 5 percent in the intervening year. The report also said that about two-thirds of 2011 college grads with bachelor’s degrees have student loan debt looming over them.
About 20 percent of that debt is from private loans, which do not have the same protections as federally-backed student loans.
Only public and non-profits included
The figures in the report represent only public and non-profit colleges. Students attending private colleges generally borrow at a higher rate than those attending other types of schools. However, only about 2 percent of private institutions provide the necessary data to be included in the survey.
The Institute for College Access and Success made a plea for the Federal Government to make such reporting mandatory. Matthew Reed, the main author of the report, wrote:
“Voluntarily reported data is all that we’ve got to shed light on how debt at graduation varies from school to school and year to year. Twelve percent of the colleges that reported debt data for 2010 didn’t report for 2011, and virtually no for-profit colleges reported at all.”
The reasons cited by the report for the increased debt load are a tough job market, sky-rocketing educational costs and record loan defaults.
With these kinds of pressures, the report noted, young people may be scared away from seeking higher education at all.
Lauren Asher, head of the student-debt project, said:
“In these tough times, a college degree is still your best bet for getting a job and decent pay. But, as debt levels rise, fear of loans can prevent students from getting the education they need to succeed.”
More precise data, she argues, could help alleviate some of those worries.
Debt varies by schools
The amount of debt, and the numbers of students carrying it, varied by school. The school with the highest average debt was Lawrence Technological University, in Michigan. There, 74 percent of grads had student loan debt when they graduated in 2011. The average amount of the loans was $46,677. The school with the lowest average debt was New York’s public York College. It reported 24 percent of grads carrying an average of $2,996 in loan debt.
The burden of debt would have been even higher if it were not for increases in federal financial aid, said the report.