This Type of Debt Is Up 56 Percent in a Decade

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A nonprofit group that follows the trend calls this exploding debt load a major policy issue.

The average student loan debt for a graduate of a four-year public or private college in the United States shot up 56 percent between 2004 and 2014.

That’s according to the 10th annual report on student debt from the Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), a California-based nonprofit. The report found that while the share of grads with student debt rose from 65 percent (2004) to 69 percent (2014), college grads in 2014 had an average debt of $28,950, compared with $18,550 for 2004’s college grads, which was more than double or triple the rate of inflation in most states.

“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 in a statement. “Student debt has rightly become a major policy issue. Students and families need better information and better policies to make college more affordable and debt less burdensome.”

Sadly, the student loan debt burden would likely be even higher if the report had factored in for-profit colleges, where students are not only more likely to take on student loans, but they also carry about 43 percent more debt on average. The report also doesn’t factor in loan figures for students who took on debt but didn’t graduate.

TICAS said the shift in college funding from states to students has placed “increasingly heavy burdens on students and families.”

“Between 2004 and 2014, [the report notes] the share of funding states provide to public colleges dropped from 62 percent to 51 percent, and during the same period, the share of tuition colleges have asked families to pay grew from 32 percent to 43 percent,” MarketWatch said.

But before you write off college as too expensive, hear this: On average, college grads experience less unemployment and earn more money than their high-school-educated peers. So yes, college is still worth the investment, as long as you graduate.

“Despite rising debt levels, a college degree is still the best path to a job and decent pay,” said Debbie Cochrane, TICAS research director, in a statement. “[But] for students who don’t graduate, loans are much harder to repay. Even a small amount of debt can be burdensome if you have limited job options.”

The report found that high student debt states are mainly concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest – Delaware, New Hampshire, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania – while low-debt states are mainly located in the West – Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, California and Arizona.

What do you think of the explosive growth in student loan debt? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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