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Which Degrees Carry the Most Debt?

a tassel for graduation reading debt

Student loan debt is at an all-time high.  Americans currently owe more than $1 trillion in student loans, whereas just ten years ago, the total was $250 billion.  Additionally, in 2011 (the most recent year for which data is available), two-thirds of four-year college graduates had loans. The average debt was $26,600, a 5% increase over 2010.

For students who have yet to enter college, many are wondering which degrees will saddle them with the least debt.  An analysis by the Wall Street Journal of data from the Department of Education sheds some light on this issue.  Graduates from arts colleges have the most debt, with an average of $21,576.  In contrast, students who graduate from liberal arts colleges owe an average of $19,445. While graduates from research universities owe $18,1000.

Although the differences between these amounts aren’t huge, it’s also important to take salaries into account when determining how long it will take to pay off loans.  For more information on starting salaries for graduates from different colleges, stay tuned for an upcoming blog post.
Student debt also varies depending on the state in which you attend college.  For a state-by-state comparison of student debt, including the average amount owed as well as the percentage of graduates with student loans, see this chart on CNN’s website.


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