The Average Student Loan Debt Is Now Up To $29,400

Seventy-one percent of the class of 2012 will be paying off their education for years to come.

Student loan borrowing just keeps getting worse, according to a new report from the Project on Student Debt at the Institute for College Access & Success. The average debt for the class of 2012 is now $29,400, up from $25,250 just two years before. The numbers come just as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has assumed oversight of the biggest student loan services, hopefully offering better protection to borrowers paying off all that debt.


Highlights of the report:

  • More students are borrowing–from 68% in 2008 to 71% in 2012.
  • They’re borrowing more–borrowing rose by 6% a year between 2008 and 2012.
  • They’re having trouble finding jobs to pay off their loans: 18.3% of young college graduates are unemployed or underemployed.
  • Debt correlates with where you live: High-debt states are clustered in the Northeast and Midwest, with low-debt states mainly in the West and South. New Mexico had the lowest average debt at $17,994, and Delaware the highest at $33,649.
  • Where you go to school matters. Campuses singled out for low debt burdens include several California State and City University of New York campuses, part of the two biggest public systems in the country and a bulwark of affordability.
  • Private loans are unfortunately still with us: 30% of graduates are taking out these loans, which have higher interest rates and fewer repayment options.

For more ideas on avoiding student loan debt, check out the Gen Flux guide to a $10,000 degree alternative.

About the author

She’s the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her next book, The Test, about standardized testing, will be published by Public Affairs in 2015.