Student debt continued to rise throughout 2014, affecting nearly 70 percent of graduating seniors and coming in at average of $28,950 per borrower, according to a report published Tuesday by the Institute for College Access and Success. The Oakland, California-based nonprofit found that the United States has seen average student debt levels rise at more than double the inflation rate over the past 10 years, and it's worse in some states -- like Delaware -- than others.
“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,” the organization's president, Lauren Asher, said in a news release. “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.”
The $28,950 figure jumped about 2 percent from the year before, when graduating seniors with debt owed on average $28,400 in loans. It was also a significant increase from 2004, when college graduates with loans owed an average of $18,630, according to the SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid.
The institute found that certain states' students had more debt than others. Delaware was the most expensive, with borrowers owing $33,808, followed by New Hampshire at $33,410 and Pennsylvania at $33,264. At the other end of the spectrum was Utah, where the average debt was $18,921. New Mexico and Nevada were the next lowest, with levels of $18,969 and $20,211, respectively.
However, other studies of student debt have produced different totals. MarketWatch reported that Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of Edvisors.com, calculated earlier this year that the class of 2015 would graduate with an average of $35,051 in loans. Kantrowitz said in May that ways of mitigating the debt issue included policy solutions like upping federal funding as well as improved personal finance habits like saving for college earlier.
The Institute for College Access and Success report focused on nonprofit and public colleges and universities. It included 56 percent of such schools.