It's the latest snapshot of the growing burden of student debt and it's another discouraging one: Two-thirds of the national college class of 2011 finished school with loan debt, and those who borrowed walked off the graduation stage owing on average $26,600—up about 5% from the class before. And those figures, released today by the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), likely underestimate the problem, because they don't include most graduates of for-profit colleges, who typically borrow more than their counterparts elsewhere.
Still, while 2011 college graduates faced an unemployment rate of 8.8% last year, even those with debt remained generally better off than those without a degree. The unemployment rate for those with only a high school diploma last year was 19.1%. "In these tough times, a college degree is still your best bet for getting a job and decent pay," says TICAS' president. "But, as debt levels rise, fear of loans can prevent students from getting the education they need to succeed."