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Average College Student Debt Rises in 2017

The average amount of individual student loan debt owned by U.S. college students increased by more than $300 in 2017, according to a study by LendEDU.

The New Jersey-based online loan marketplace's annual Student Loan Debt by School by State Report found the average debt per borrower for the class of 2017 was $28,288, up $313 from $27,975 in 2016.

South Carolina schools overall ranked 38th in the list.

"Student loan debt in the U.S. continues to be an issue of the utmost importance. The total outstanding student loan debt now stands at to $1.52 trillion, making it the second largest form of consumer debt behind only mortgages," LendEDU said Wednesday.

The annual report uses data from the Peterson's financial aid survey, which collects responses from 1,080 four-year public and private institutions to determine average individual student loan debt figures and rank states and colleges in terms of debt per borrower.

Pennsylvania had the highest average student debt per borrower at $36,193, up from 2016 when it was also the state where college graduates paid back the highest debt at $35,185.

The state was home to six of the nation's Top 10 public colleges with the highest average student debt, including Penn State Shenango, Penn State Hazleton, Penn State Harrisburg, Penn State Worthington Scranton, Lincoln University and Penn State Altoona, all of which had an average debt per borrower greater than $40,000.

Utah had the lowest average student debt per borrower at $18,425 in 2017 down slightly from $18,810 in 2016. 

The New School College of Performing Arts, a private school in New York, had the highest debt per borrower at $77,353, while Bethel College, a private Christian liberal arts college, had the lowest at $5,633. Both totals were up from 2016 when the highest debt was $59,113 and the lowest was $3,809.

While the total average individual student loan debt increased in 2017, the percentage of graduates at non-profit, 4-year public and private colleges that had student loan debt decreased from 59.78 percent in 2016 to 57.96 percent.

The average debt when including those with no student loans also decreased by $403 from $16,723 for the class of 2016 to $16,320 for the class of 2017.

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