More than 70 percent of college graduates in 2012 had student loans, and their average debt surpassed $29,000, according to an independent analysis of federal data made public Wednesday.
Both figures were higher than what was found in a comparable profile of graduates four years earlier.
The Institute for College Access and Success, based in Oakland, Calif., reported that 71 percent of the class of 2012 had debt at graduation, up from 68 percent for the class of 2008. The average debt of $29,400 was up from $23,450 in 2008, indicating that for many students, public and private grants are not keeping pace with rising tuition. Maine graduates’ average debt load was $29,352, putting Maine at No. 7 in the nation. New Hampshire was No. 2 with an average of $32,698 per graduate.
The report drew on a quadrennial release of federal data from a survey of student aid.
“This new analysis provides a wake-up call for federal lawmakers to take a closer look at the impact of student debt on our recovering economy,” Rep. George Miller of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said in a statement. “With more students borrowing more money than ever before, a generation of young adults will be forced to put important life decisions like buying a home on hold while they pay back their loans, constraining their ability to contribute to a robust economic rebound.”
The institute also looked at student loan data voluntarily reported by about 1,000 colleges.
The analysis, which did not include parent loans, listed 20 “low debt” colleges and universities. Among them were Hampton University in Virginia, with average debt of $9,597, and Gallaudet and Howard universities in the District of Columbia, with average debt of $10,347 and $10,136, respectively.
The analysis also listed several public and private colleges it described as “high debt” institutions. One in Maryland was Morgan State University, with an average student debt of $36,086, and one in Virginia was Regent University, with average debt of $45,326.
Regent spokeswoman Mindy Hughes said the university in Virginia Beach “has been responding to increased student debt and changes in the academic marketplace by accelerating programs so that students can graduate faster. . . . We are continually reviewing and revising programs to provide greater efficiencies and savings for students.”
Morgan State officials could not be reached Wednesday evening to comment.
According to the report, the 10 states with the highest average student debt were:
1. Delaware $33,649
2. New Hampshire $32,698
3. Pennsylvania $31,675
4. Minnesota $31,497
5. Rhode Island $31,156
6. Iowa $29,456
7. Maine $29,352
8. New Jersey $29,287
9. Ohio $29,037
10. Michigan $28,840