Student debt, including Georgia graduates’, still rising

By Janel Davis, ajc.com Staff Writer

Student debt continues to rise for 2014 graduates, with debt for Georgia’s new college graduates averaging 8 percent higher than the debt for graduates the year before, according to a national debt report released Tuesday.

At public and nonprofit colleges in 2014, seven in 10 graduating seniors had student loans. The average debt amount for those graduates was $28,950, a 2 percent increase compared to the class of 2013, the report by the Project on Student Debt at The Institute for College Access and Success found.

The report includes a state breakdown showing the average debt for 2014 Georgia graduates reached $26,518, up from $24,517 in 2013. About 62 percent of Georgia graduates carried debt. With the increase, Georgia’s rank among states with the highest debt moved to 24th, from 37th last year.

“Borrowers are graduating with a lot more debt than they did 10 years ago, and the class of 2014’s’ average debt is the highest yet,” said TICAS president Lauren Asher. “Student debt has rightly become a major policy issues. Students and families need better information and better policies to make college more affordable and debt less burdensome.”

Tuesday’s report is the tenth annual debt-at-graduation analysis completed by TICAS. New this year, the report includes an analysis of how graduates’ debt has changed over the past decade. Nationally, average debt for new bachelor’s degree graduates increased at more than double the rate of inflation from 2004 to 2014.

Nationally student loan debt has risen to about $1.3 trillion, and has become an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign. Candidates have framed the issue as a strain on the economy, and some are pushing debt-free college as a way to ease the burden.

Report authors noted that state averages, self-reported by public and nonprofit colleges, may actually be higher than the figures in the report because the data may exclude transfer students, and some private loans may also not be counted. Also excluded from the 2014 report is data on for-profit colleges, a segment of the higher education industry known for high tuition and students with high debt loads, because so few report their graduates’ debt loads, authors noted.

State averages for debt at graduation in 2014 ranged from $18,900 to $33,800.

High-debt states

Delaware – $33,808

New Hampshire – $33,410

Pennsylvania – $33,264

Rhode Island – $31,841

Minnesota – $31,579

Maine – $30,908

Connecticut – $29,750

Iowa – $29,732

Michigan – $29,450

Alabama – $29,425

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GEORGIA – $26,518

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Low-debt states

Washington – $24,804

Hawaii – $24,554

Wyoming – $23,708

Oklahoma – $23,430

Louisiana – $23,025

Arizona – $22,609

California – $21,382

Nevada – $20,211

New Mexico – $18,969

Utah – $18,921

Source: “Student Debt and the Class of 2014” report by the Project on Student Debt at The Institute for College Access & Success

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