Student Debt and the Class of 2015

By Rachel Fenton

In October, the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) released its 11th annual report, Student Debt and the Class of 2015.  TICAS used data voluntarily self-reported by colleges to show variation in average student debt by institution and by state for the Class of 2015.  TICAS then used federal data from 2012 to estimate current student debt levels.

Key findings from the report are below:

  • About 56% of public and nonprofit four-year colleges (1,116 of 2,010 schools) voluntarily self-reported their average student debt and percent of graduates with debt for the Class of 2015.
    • Colleges reported a wide variation in average debt, ranging from $3,000 to $53,600 per graduate.
    • The proportion of graduates with debt ranged from 7 to 100%. Forty-three colleges reported that more than 90% of their graduates had student debt.
  • Colleges reported that average student debt ranged from a low of $18,873 in Utah to a high of $36,101 in New Hampshire. Low-debt states tended to be located in the West, with high-debt states concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest.
  • Using federal data, an estimated 68% of students who graduated from public or private nonprofit colleges in 2015 had student loan debt.
  • Nationally, Class of 2015 graduates, on average, owed an estimated $30,100 in student debt, a 4% increase from the 2014 average ($28,950).
  • Federal data also showed that an estimated 19% of Class of 2015’s student debt was nonfederal (state and/or private) loans.
    • Graduates who borrowed from state sponsored student loan programs tended to be concentrated in three states – Texas, New Jersey and Minnesota. Of the 2015 graduates with state student loan debt, two out of three graduates went to college in these states.
  • The report also included a series of state and federal policy recommendations, centered around the themes of reducing the need to borrow, keeping loan payments manageable, helping students make informed choices, strengthening college accountability and reducing risky private loan borrowing.