Pennsylvania has some pretty dismal student loan debt figures: Graduates of Pennsylvania colleges and universities have some of the highest average debt loads in the U.S., a huge portion of students take out loans and nine of the 20 public schools with high-average debt loads are in Pennsylvania.
Earlier in November, the Institute for College Access & Success released its report on student debt among the class of 2013, which uses self-reported data from higher education institutions to compile a picture of student loan debt among U.S. college graduates. Because universities report data voluntarily, not all institutions are represented in the report (few for-profit colleges are), and it isn’t audited for accuracy (it’s based on information reported to Peterson’s, a college guide, by 1,108 public and private four-year colleges). It doesn’t include debt levels of students who dropped out, who are the most likely to default on student loans, and doesn’t count pre-existing debt of transfer students.
The data has limitations, but it represents 83% of people who earned bachelor’s degrees from four-year public and private nonprofit institutions in the 2012-2013 academic year, and some of those graduates have just begun repaying student loans.
It seems many of them went to school in Pennsylvania: The average 2013 graduate of a Pennsylvania school was $32,528 (third behind New Hampshire and Delaware), 71% of graduates left with debt (third behind New Hampshire and South Dakota), and nine of the 20 public schools where graduates have high average debt loads are in the Keystone State. (It’s worth noting again: These aren’t absolutely the schools where graduates have the most debt, just among the schools that reported data to Peterson’s, the source used for the study.)
20. The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
Average debt among 2013 graduates: $33,944
19. Clemson University
Average debt: $34,114
18. Mansfield University of Pennsylvania
Average debt: $34,155
17. Massachusetts Maritime Academy
Average debt: $34,224
16. Temple University
Average debt: $34,382
15. University of Maine
Average debt: $34,389
14. Kentucky State University
Average debt: $34,428
13. University of Pittsburgh-Bradford
Average debt: $34,604
12. University of Pittsburgh
Average debt: $34,623
11. Michigan Technological University
Average debt: $34,903
10. Pennsylvania State University
State College, Pa.
Average debt: $35,430
9. University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown
Average debt: $35,480
8. University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg
Average debt: $35,700
7. University of New Hampshire
Average debt: $36,064
6. Ferris State University
Big Rapids, Mich.
Average debt: $37,325
5. Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Average debt: $37,457
4. University of West Alabama
Average debt: $38,126
3. Lincoln University of Pennsylvania
Average debt: $39,206
2. Texas Southern University
Average debt: $40,350
1. Citadel Military College of South Carolina
Average debt: $48,862
For comparison, the average 2013 graduate with student loans had $28,400 in debt (69% of graduates took out loans). The fact that student debt loads are rising and so many Americans borrow money to go to college is a big deal because student loans affect those borrowers’ credit and ability to participate in the economy, and if the loans can’t be repaid, those people face wage garnishment, debt collection and terrible credit scores.
Student loans aren’t inherently bad: They help people who otherwise can’t afford college get degrees, and when loan payments are made on time, they help the borrower’s credit score. (You can see how student loans affect your credit by getting two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.) Because student loans are rarely dischargeable in bankruptcy, it’s crucial to stay on top of payments, and if you start struggling to make them, look in to repayment options and reach out to your loan servicer to see if you can work out a more affordable plan.
More on Student Loans:
- How Student Loans Can Impact Your Credit
- Can You Get Your Student Loans Forgiven?
- Strategies for Paying Off Student Loan Debt