Although Washington students borrow more money to go to college than they did a decade ago, they still borrow less than their counterparts in neighboring states, according to a new study.
The latest data, from a company that provides information about student loan refinancing, show that the average undergraduate student who graduated from a Washington public or private college in 2015 borrowed $24,997 to complete college. About 56 percent of grads had debt upon graduation.
Among all states, Washington ranked 40th in terms of debt per borrower — that’s a good ranking, according to the study by lendedu.
The state with students graduating with the most debt was Connecticut, where the average $36,865. At the bottom of the list — or at the top, depending on how you look at it — was Utah, where student debt averaged only $18,772 upon graduation.
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The overall average, for all states, was $28,400 in student debt.
The study may say as much about the composition of colleges in Washington as it does about the cost of college here. Lendedu found that of the 250 colleges with the highest amount of student loan debt per borrower, 82 percent of the institutions were private.
Washington doesn’t have a large number of private schools; the college-going scene here is dominated by big public universities, like the University of Washington and Washington State University.
For a longer-term perspective, it’s worth looking at the data compiled by the Institute for College Access and Success, which gets its data on student loans from the same source and publishes it as The Project on Student Debt. That website has a ten-year debt comparison figurethat shows how debt has changed over time.
In 2004, Washington students had an average debt of $17,415 upon graduation. Ten years later, students had an average debt of $24,804 — a 42 percent increase.
The percentage of students who graduated with debt from Washington colleges has hardly budged, according to the project: 56 percent in 2004, and 58 percent in 2014.
Selected Washington schools, with figures for the percentage of graduates with debt and the average debt they carry:
University of Washington Tacoma: 61 percent, $17,910
Central Washington University: 69 percent, $26,286
Washington State University: 61 percent, $25,809
The Evergreen State College: 58 percent, $21,131
University of Washington: 40 percent, $21,180
University of Puget Sound: 58 percent, $33,130
Pacific Lutheran University: 73 percent; $29,866
St. Martin’s University: 82 percent, $28,875