Average Student Loan Debt: $29,400

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Student loan debt continues to pile up on America’s college graduates, topping an average $29,000 per student last year.

The average debt load for the class of 2012 was $29,400 — up more than 10% from the previous year, according to a report released by the Institute for College Access & Success’ Project on Student Debt.

At the same time, colleges across the country have been hiking tuition and fees and families’ incomes have been shrinking, student loan debt has risen at an average rate of 6% per year from 2008 to 2012, the report found.

Seven in 10 seniors graduated with student loan debt, and a fifth of that debt was owed to private lenders, which often charge high interest rates.

To make matters worse, the job market still hasn’t recovered, leaving many graduates with little or no income.

Still, the employment prospects of college grads are a lot better than those without college education. High school grads without college degrees faced an unemployment rate of 17.9% in 2012, compared to 7.7% for young college graduates.

As always, some schools leave students with more debt than others — typically those with the highest tuition. So it’s important to shop around before shelling out your life savings for an education. Average debt by college ranged from as little as $4,450 to $49,450 in 2012, while the percentage of students with loans also varied from 6% to 100%, TICAS found.

“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,” TICAS president Lauren Asher said in a statement.

–By Blake Ellis, CNNMoney


  • Jaclynn Jett

    I worked two part time jobs, juggled a family of three kids and a husband, and still managed to go to a community college full time. I graduated with the help of scholarships and grants and was able to keep my student loan debt to approximately $10, 000. I was blessed to find a job to utilize my degree and my hard work has paid off.

  • Jo Ann

    If I were a drug addict, I would get free treatment and the State would provide me with everything I need to get clean. As a matter of fact, money is being dumped into helping the addict recover. However, since my issue is college loan debt because I want better for myself, then I am going to suffer the consequences of not being able to afford the monthly payments. I am not sure I understand all of this but I would rather the State help those who help themselves and strive for better and help those who do not put a needle in their arm. Like Wayne Dawson said about his daughters college loans, “I will die before these loans will be paid”.

    • pondering

      Did Wayne mean before the girls pay them or he pays them? The reason I ask is because he should not be paying for them. The girls are adults, they got the education, let them pay it off. He raised himself, he has obligations, and he is getting near retirement. Put the money there.

  • Timothy Wright

    Student loan debt isn’t the horrific burden the verbiage in this article would lead you to believe. Advancing your education is an investment in yourself, one that generally results in a higher paying salary and the ability to earn back that difference more tenfold over your lifetime. Not to mention it is the most lenient form of debt with deferment/forbearance options for those who are unable to afford their payments. Also, many employers are willing to repay that debt in full if you accept a job offer.

    • pondering

      I agree. People complain about their loans, while making, on average, more money. It does take time to pay it down, but in the end they come out ahead.

      I am glad current bankruptcy law prevents defaulting on student loans. Some are trying to change that. The only way I’ll agree with it is if they have to turn in their diploma. Society shouldn’t bear the burden of their diploma making them more money.

  • Janice Lett

    Parents and students have to adjust dreams of going to a specific college (ie, ivy league, private, out of state). If you can’t afford to, you may need to do 2 yrs at a community college, complete your gen ed. credits and then transfer and take courses in your major at a 4 yr. Just be sure the 4 yr accepts credits from the community college.

  • Dan

    The article is a little misleading…the unemployment rate for those with a college degree is at 4%…those without a high school degree or with just a High School Degree shift that unemployment rate all the way up to an average of 7%.

    Getting a college or vocational degree gives you the best opportunity to get employed. http://www.collegecomplete.com

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