Borrowing Levels Vary Widely by Sector and Degree

$29,400. That’s the average student-loan burden of 2012 graduates of four-year colleges who borrowed.

But averages obscure variation. With that in mind, the New America Foundation released this week a new analysis that looks at how much undergraduates borrowed for different credentials in different sectors over time.

For instance, the rate of borrowing has gone up for both graduates with associate degrees and graduates with bachelor’s degrees since 2003-4, but a larger share of bachelor’s recipients borrow. Seventy percent of bachelor’s-degree recipients had loans in 2011-12, compared with half of those who’d earned associate degrees.

There is also considerable variation in average debt. Bachelor’s completers who borrowed had an average of $25,640 in loans at public four-year colleges in 2011-12. Those who graduated from private nonprofit colleges borrowed an average of $32,308, and those who graduated from for-profit colleges borrowed an average of $40,038.

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