Minnesota is a leader in student debt

Minnesota is near the top of another national survey, but this one probably isn’t brag-worthy. It’s ninth on the list of debt incurred by people attending college.

The Institute for College Access & Success’s annual report on student loans shows the amount of debt is rising more slowly, but 66 percent of graduating 2017 students in the nation are leaving school with an average of about $29,000. In Minnesota, however, it’s $31,734, the report said.

The report does not include a growing source of loans for students: parents.

The data in this report do not include loan amounts that parents have borrowed to help their children pay for college, but federal data show notable changes in parent borrowing for bachelor’s degree recipients. Overall, the average parent loan increased between 2012 and 2016, though the share of parents borrowing loans decreased.

Similarly, federal data show that the average private loan increased, while the share of graduates with private loan debt declined. Some have suggested that the growth in parent debt relates to students hitting their federal loan limits, yet it is hard to know with available data how much of a factor this is.

It is also possible that federal loan limits played a role in the increase in institutional grant aid spending discussed above, as colleges sought ways to support students in lieu of turning to additional loans. More analysis is needed to understand each of these trends, their causes, who is affected, and how they relate to student debt burdens.

The slowdown in the growth of student debt for recent bachelor’s degree recipients is a welcome trend, but it does not mean that the burden of student debt is less of a concern, or that students’ struggles to afford college are not still serious and persistent.

After considering grants and scholarships, undergraduates at four-year colleges still had almost $11,000 of unmet need in 2015-16, with $6,600 still left uncovered after taking all loans into account.

Sixty-eight percent of Minnesotans in the Class of 2017 graduated with debt, the survey indicated. That’s the fourth highest in the nation.