The Project on Student Loan Debt, a program of the nonprofit Institute for College Access and Success, recently conducted a survey and reported some updated undergraduate student loan debt statistical figures. Here are some highlights (the statistics are as of 2012):
- Average student loan debt for an undergraduate degree at a nonprofit or state college/university is now $29,400. That’s up from $18,750 in 2004 (in other words, a 56% increase in 8 years).
- The percentage of college students graduating with student loan debt is at 71%, up from 65% in 2004.
- The above figures include both federal and private student loans. One in three college students had private student loan debt, which averaged $13,600.
- Student loan debt levels are not uniform across the country. Students in some states have significantly higher levels of student loan debt than students from other states. For instance, graduates in Delaware had an average of $33,649 in student loan debt.
- Student loan debt levels are also not uniform across individual colleges and universities, with average debt varying from $4,450 to nearly $50,000.
- The statistics are worse for people who attend for-profit institutions. 88% of graduates of four-year for-profit institutions graduated with student loan debt, with an average debt burden of $39,950.
The numbers themselves, and the rates of increases, aren’t the only striking element of this report. From my perspective, the hidden shocking fact is that this report only covers undergraduate degrees. Graduate-school debt is not shown. For people who are pursuing graduate degrees, the debt levels can be many times higher than the figures for undergraduates, and an even greater percentage of people graduate with debt from graduate programs. Given that our society now puts significant pressure on people to pursue graduate programs in order to advance their careers, I view graduate-level debt to be equally significant to undergraduate debt.
This report simply reinforces my strong belief that the current higher education system is unsustainable, and we need real institutional reform to give borrowers relief.
To read the full report, click here.