College graduates in Rhode Island and Connecticut rank near and at the top, respectively, when it comes to student debt, according to a new report.
Connecticut ranked first as the state with the highest student debt among Class of 2017 college graduates, according to the 13th annual report from The Institute for College Access and Success. The nonprofit organization describes itself as “working to make higher education more available and affordable for people of all backgrounds.”
The report covered debt for bachelor’s degree graduates of public and nonprofit colleges. According to the report, the average debt load at graduation in 2017 in Connecticut was $38,510 for those who borrowed, and 57 percent of students in the state graduated with debt.
The report, released last week, ranked Rhode Island as third-highest, with an average debt load of $36,250 for those who borrowed. It found that 64 percent of students in the state graduated with debt.
The state that ranked with the lowest student debt for 2017 graduates? Utah, at an average per student debt load of $18,838, according to the report.
Congressional lawmakers said the costs associated with attending college are creating a sizable barrier to entry.
“More and more middle-class families are routinely forced to turn to student loans to pay for tuition, housing, books, and other expenses,” U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., said.
“This new report by TICAS shows that 57 percent of college seniors in Connecticut are graduating with debt hanging over their head. This is an unacceptable situation and one that will have lasting consequences for our economy and American families unless we fix it.”
U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said students and families who have the least often assume the most financial risk to get an education.
“We need to change direction or the long-term personal and economic consequences of this debt will be irreversible,” Reed said. “We need greater shared responsibility in financing higher education. Institutions need to step up; states need to do their part; and the private sector needs to invest as well.”
Some welcome news from the report: The growth of student debt slowed from the previous year.
The new report found that, nationally, the average debt for the Class of 2017 was only 1 percent higher than the 2016 average.
“While the growth of student debt slowed down in recent years, averages mask important differences in who carries debt and whether they can repay it,” said James Kvaal, president of The Institute for College Access and Success.
“Lower income graduates are more likely to leave college with debt and have more of it, and more than one in 10 of them will end up in default. We need to invest more in student aid and in colleges to reduce students’ need to borrow, and make their loans easier to repay,” Kvaal said.