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Pennsylvania 2017 college grads lead the nation in student debt |

Pennsylvania 2017 college grads lead the nation in student debt

| Monday, August 13, 2018 3:27 p.m

Debt be not proud.

Poet John Donne didn’t say that, but he might have if he’d lived in modern day Pennsylvania where a recent survey of 2017 college graduates found they were carrying the highest average student debt load in the nation.

The annual survey , conducted by LendEDU, found that 67 percent of the state’s new college grads left school last year with an average debt load of $36,193. That’s about twice as much as the $18,425 new college grads in Utah — the state with the lowest student debt level — incurred.

To put it in perspective, the average Pennsylvania graduate’s debt load last year was about $10,000 more than the cost of a new 2018 Chevy Impala.

The Project on Student Debt, another national survey published by the Institute for College Access and Success, also ranks Pennsylvania graduates near the top for student debt. Its last national survey — for the class of 2016 — showed Pennsylvania graduates with the second highest level of student debt, an average of $35,759. About 68 percent of new Pennsylvania graduates in that survey were loaded up with debt.

They are part of a growing group of 44 million Americans who owe about $1.3 trillion in student loans. And some of them are carrying well more than the average. The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency reported that 1 million Americans are carrying $100,000 or more in student debt.

Some worry that student debt is forcing new graduates to delay buying homes and starting families and may foreshadow changes in the classic American Dream.

Robert Strauss, an economist and professor of public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, said the numbers reflect economic realities in the Keystone State.

“What it says to me is that we are a below average income state with above average tuition,” Strauss said.

He said the debt rate reflects high tuition rates at the state’s public universities where state support lags well behind the levels in many other states.

“We’ve been seeing prices rise because state aid has not been very generous. So the kids are getting admitted and they’re rolling up the debt. The next question is: are they getting well enough educated so they can pay it back? Research shows higher education generally has a higher pay off than a high school degree, but that doesn’t mean it’s a clear win for everyone,” Strauss said.

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