June 01, 2020
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Maine’s student loan burden among the highest in the nation

Ashley L. Conti | BDN
Ashley L. Conti | BDN
A graduate's cap making fun of student debt is seen during the University of Maine's 215th Commencement at Alfond Arena in Orono in this May 13, 2017, file photo.

Graduates from Maine’s four-year colleges have some of the highest student loan burdens in the country.

According to a new report from the nonprofit Institute for College Access and Success, the average Maine college graduate last year owed more than $32,600 in student loans. That’s the eighth-highest burden in the country, but still lower than some other New England states.

Lindsay Ahlman, a senior policy analyst at the institute, said state funding cuts to higher education are partly to blame for rising student debt.

“And that means more of the cost of college shifts from states onto students and families. Which is a trend we’ve seen nationally, as well as in Maine,” she said.

Ahlman said that while growth in student loan debt has begun to slow, it can disproportionately affect low-income students, who default on loans at higher rates.

“The most effective thing that states and the federal government can do is prioritize need-based grants and bring down their college costs,” she said.

The Maine Legislature has considered several bills to ease student debt, including a bond measure last session to forgive $250 million in student loans that was carried over to the next legislative session.

The state’s university system also has recently touted efforts to keep costs down, including freezing tuition for six years and boosting grants and scholarships.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.


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