Student Debt and the Class of 2008

Student Debt and the Class of 2008

Student Debt and the Class of 2008 is the Project on Student Debt's fourth annual report on the student loan debt of new college graduates. The analysis of the most recent available data found that student debt continued to rise even as it got harder for recent graduates to find jobs, and that debt levels vary considerably from state to state and college to college.

Nationwide, average debt for graduating seniors with loans rose from $18,650 in 2004 to $23,200 in 2008, or about six percent per year. State averages for debt at graduation in 2008 ranged from highs near $30,000 to a low of $13,000. High-debt states are concentrated in the Northeast, while low-debt states are mostly in the West. At the college level, average debt varied even more, from $5,000 to $106,000. Colleges with higher tuition tend to have higher average debt, but there are many examples of high tuition and low average debt, and vice versa.

Meanwhile, employment prospects for young college graduates have soured along with the economy. The unemployment rate for college graduates aged 20-24 was a challenging 7.6% in the third quarter of 2008, the highest third quarter rate since 2002; by the third quarter of 2009 it had risen to 10.6%, the highest on record. The majority of the class of 2008 fell into this age group in both years.

A companion online map with details for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and nearly two thousand four-year public and nonprofit colleges is available at http://projectonstudentdebt.org/state_by_state-data.php.

Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, visit the Project on Student Debt Web site or visit the The Project on Student Debt on PewHealth.org.

Spotlight on Mental Health

Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

Pills illustration
Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

Explore Pew’s new and improved
Fiscal 50 interactive

Your state's stats are more accessible than ever with our new and improved Fiscal 50 interactive:

  • Maps, trends, and customizable charts
  • 50-state rankings
  • Analysis of what it all means
  • Shareable graphics and downloadable data
  • Proven fiscal policy strategies

Explore

Welcome to the new Fiscal 50

Key changes include:

  • State pages that help you keep track of trends in your home state and provide national and regional context.
  • Interactive indicator pages with highly customizable and shareable data visualizations.
  • A Budget Threads feature that offers Pew’s read on the latest state fiscal news.

Learn more about the new and improved Fiscal 50.