Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florida. ...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Oct 22, 2012

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The average student loan debt rose this year by 5 percent to an average amount of $26,500. In 2011 the average was only $25,350, according to a report from the Institute for College Access and Success’s Project on Student Debt.

The same report revealed that roughly two-thirds of all bachelor degree earners had borrowed student loans. Within this group, one-fifth had borrowed private student loans, which feature fewer consumer protections and repayment options than federal loans.

“Voluntarily reported data is all that we’ve got to shed light on how debt at graduation varies from school to school and year to year. Twelve percent of the colleges that reported debt data for 2010 didn’t report for 2011, and virtually no for-profit colleges reported at all. The need for federal collection of key debt information at all colleges could not be more clear,” said report author Matthew Reed, in an interview with the New York Times.

The head of the Project, Lauren Asher, explained that even though college degrees are the surest route to employment and a high income, fear of the student loan debt necessary to obtain these degrees weighs heavily on the minds of potential students. This fear may actually be preventing some youth from acquiring an education. She recommends that better consumer information may help address this problem.

The average college loan debt associated with individual colleges varied from each institution that was polled. The data revealed that Michigan-based Lawrence Technological University had the highest average debt of $46,677, which was borrowed by 74 percent of its undergraduate student body. New York-based York College had the lowest average of $2,996, which was borrowed by 24 percent of graduates.

The report found that there were 64 colleges in which a whopping 90 percent of graduates finished with student loan debt.

On a state-to-state basis, the average student loan debt also varied greatly. For example, the state with the highest average debt was New Hampshire with $32,450, while the state with the lowest was Utah with $17,227. These findings are simply a part of a larger trend, which revealed that high-debt states were located in the Northeast and Midwest while low-debt states were in the South and the West.