Seven in 10 college seniors who graduated in 2012 had student loan debt, with an average of
$29,400 for those with loans. The national share of seniors graduating with loans rose in recent
years, from 68 percent in 2008 to 71 percent in 2012, while their debt at graduation increased by
an average of six percent per year. Even though the financial crisis caused a substantial decline in
private education lending while these borrowers were in school, about one-fifth (20%) of their
debt is comprised of private loans, which are typically more costly and provide fewer consumer
protections and repayment options than safer federal loans. State averages for debt at graduation ranged widely in 2012, from $18,000 to $33,650, and graduating seniors’ likelihood of having debt ranged from 41 percent to 78 percent. In five states, average debt was more than $30,000. High-debt states remain concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest, with low-debt states mainly in the West and South. ... Having to repay student loans can pose particular challenges for recent graduates who cannot find any or enough work, particularly if they have private loans. During the time many members of the Class of 2012 were entering the job market, the unemployment rate for young college graduates was 7.7 percent, a decrease from 8.8 percent one year earlier but still higher than the levels seen before the recent financial crisis. In addition, traditional unemployment rates do not capture those considered underemployed. A broader measure that includes both unemployment and underemployment shows that 18.3 percent of young college graduates were working fewer hours than they wanted, were not working but still looking for work, or had given up looking for work. While these facts are troubling, recent research underscores the strong employment and earnings prospects for those with college degrees. On average, four-year college graduates continue to experience far less unemployment and to earn higher salaries than their counterparts with only a high school education. The unemployment rate for young high school graduates was 17.9 percent in 2012, more than double the rate for young college graduates.
The press release provides a good synopsis.