Paying for college … and paying … and paying

As FAFSA time nears, the Project on Student Debt. reports that the debt load for 2008 Minnesota college grads averaged $25,558.  That’s the sixth-highest debt load in the nation. Making matters worse, graduates are also having difficulty finding jobs, witih a 10.6 percent unemployment rate for 2008 grads in the third quarter of 2009.

NPSAS data show that for the past few years, around two-thirds of students graduating from four-year colleges had student loan debt. The average amount these students owe has grown about six percent per year since 2003-04, reaching $23,200 for the class of 2008. For comparison, in 1996, only 58 percent of students graduated with debt, and they owed an average of $13,200.

The Minnesota-specific part of the report shows an average debt for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) grads of $ 22,962, and 82 percent of MNSCU grads have debt. The University of Minnesota (Twin Cities) shows only 64 percent of its students with debt, and an average debt load of $23,811.

Tuition keeps rising. MPR reported on this year’s increases:

The average yearly tuition bill at Minnesota’s public and private colleges has gone up 82 percent in the last decade.

At the University of Minnesota it was 107 percent; at MnSCU four-year colleges it was 90 percent; MnSCU two-year institutions saw a 79 percent increase, and private colleges recorded a 52 percent rise.

But, says MPR, colleges say increased student aid offsets most of the tuition increases. Of course, “The talk of net price is also lost on the one-third of families who don’t qualify for financial aid.”

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