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Student loans may be the only way for some students of modest means to get through college. But the subsequent debt can also be a heavy financial burden for borrowers.
Collectively, Americans owe $1.5 trillion in student loans. More than a third of adults under 30 carry student loan debt, according to Pew Research Center analysis. In other age groups, 22% of adults between 30 and 44 have student loan debt as do 4% of those 45 and older.
The amounts owed vary, but 25% of borrowers owed $43,000 or more in 2016 and another 7% had upward of $100,000 in student loans.
While many borrowers are able to pay off student loans, horror stories abound from those buried in debt. Students looking to sidestep debt may want to consider schools where recent graduates borrowed less to pay for college.
Of the 1,031 ranked colleges that reported this data to U.S. News in an annual survey, graduates from the class of 2018 borrowed an average of $29,816. Among those schools, an average of 65% of graduates took out student loans, U.S. News survey data shows.
At the 10 schools where graduates borrowed the least amount of money, the average debt burden was $5,115. These graduates also borrowed at lower rates, with an average of only 46% of the class of 2018 taking out student loans, per U.S. News data.
By contrast, at colleges where graduates borrowed the most the average student loan debt was $51,507.
Graduates of Pensacola State College in Florida borrowed the least with an average of $2,117 in debt for the class of 2018.
The 10 schools where graduates borrowed the least are geographically diverse and primarily Regional Colleges or Regional Universities, though one school in the National Universities category made the list, as did two National Liberal Arts Colleges.
Below is a list of the 10 colleges where 2018 graduates who borrowed loans to pay for school had the lowest average debt. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.
|School (state)||Average debt load, class of 2018||Percentage of graduating students who borrowed||U.S. News Rank and Category|
|Pensacola State College (FL)||$2,117||19%||26 (tie), Regional Colleges (South)|
|Troy University (AL)||$3,145||50%||65 (tie), Regional Universities (South)|
|Broward College (FL)||$3,617||48%||65-84, Regional Colleges (South)|
|CUNY–City College (NY)||$5,368||95%||228 (tie), National Universities|
|Bryn Athyn College of the New Church (PA)||$5,464||81%||164-215, National Liberal Arts Colleges|
|CUNY–York College (NY)||$5,704||7%||36-46, Regional Colleges (North)|
|San Francisco State University||$6,069||30%||31 (tie), Regional Universities (West)|
|CUNY–Lehman College (NY)||$6,139||1%||100 (tie), Regional Universities (North)|
|Berea College (KY)||$6,405||56%||46 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges|
|Notre Dame of Maryland University||$7,124||69%||59 (tie), Regional Universities (North)|
Don’t see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find student debt information, complete rankings and much more. Sign up for the U.S. News Extra Help: College Admissions free email newsletter to receive expert advice twice a month.
U.S. News surveyed more than 1,900 colleges and universities for our 2019 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News’ data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data comes from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News’ rankings of Best Colleges, Best Graduate Schools or Best Online Programs. The student loan data above is correct as of Feb. 18, 2020.
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