Average student loan debt higher than ever before

By: Max Hess - Email
By: Max Hess - Email

Posted Monday, May 19, 2014 -- 10:15 p.m.

It's that time of the year where gowns are draped and caps fly high -- but what often flies just as high as the caps on graduation day -- is debt.

This year, there's more than ever.

"The year has the latest record for total student loan debt at graduation," according to Mark Kantrowitz, a nationally recognized expert on student loans and financial aid, who is currently the Senior V.P. of the Edvisors Network.

"The average debt at graduation for a bachelors degree recipient is about $33,000, and every year that debt increases by $1,000," Kantrowitz explained.

It's a story Kelsey Manders, who just graduated from UW-Madison, knows all too well.

"I'm leaving with $27,000," she said.

Manders said she has a plan, so she thinks she's in the clear, but says it's still a lot of money.

"I mean I ignored it for the past four years, and then looking at it was kind of a shock."

Susan Fischer, who runs the student financial aid program at UW-Madison, calls student loans and debt a "national concern".

Nonetheless, it is not as big of a deal as it seems, according to Fischer.

She blames it on the recession, and thinks the higher student loan debt is because more and more people thought the only way to get beat the recession was to go back to school.

Fischer says that school can be affordable though.

"There's certainly grants and scholarships available," she said, adding that that there's always room for improvement.

"We'd like to see more grants based on financial aid," Fischer said.

According to Fischer, the ideal key to affordable education starts with the parents.

"Ideal is when the child is born, their parents start saving for their college immediately," she said.

Carly Allard, who also just graduated from UW-Madison, says she was lucky enough to be in that position.

"I luckily do not have student debt," adding that "you can never save too much".

Allard is outnumbered though.

70 percent of this year's undergraduate college graduates have loans.

Mark Kantrowitz says the saving methodology to avoid massive student loans is really quite simple.

"Every dollar you spend is a dollar less you're going to have to borrow," he said, adding that "when a student is in school, they need to live like a student so that they don't have to live like a student after they graduate."

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