Minnesota 5th highest for graduate debt: Which colleges cost students the most?

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Chances are, college students in Minnesota are going to be more debt-laden than those in other states when they come to graduate.

The latest survey by the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) says those who graduated a with four-year degree from public or private nonprofit colleges in Minnesota last year left with $31,579 student loan debt on average – well above the national average of $28,950.

It puts Minnesota as the fifth highest state for student debt, and represents a huge rise on the $19,850 average debt they were leaving college with in 2004.

Minnesota also has the third highest proportion of graduates in debt – 70 percent, although this has fallen from 72 percent ten years earlier.

Which colleges leave students in most debt?

The study has also identified which colleges prove the most expensive for students in terms of the debt they left with in 2014, with two Minnesota institutions included.

Winona State University was among the top 20 "high debt" public colleges, while The College of Saint Scholastica in Duluth was in the top 20 for nonprofit private colleges.

The report says students left Winona State with an average debt of $35,131, while those who graduated the Duluth college were $42,792 in debt.

However, it should be noted that not every college in Minnesota reported their average student debt levels to Peterson's Undergraduate Financial Aid and Undergraduate Databases, which is where TICAS obtained the information.

Of those that did report, the public college where students left with the least debt last year is The University of Minnesota-Crookston at $23,621, while for a private nonprofit it was Martin Luther College in New Ulm, at $17,391.

You can find a full breakdown of tuition costs and average debt for Minnesota's colleges here.

Student debt a 'major policy issue'

TICAS president Lauren Asher told the Star Tribune student debt has "rightly become a major policy issue," particularly in light of the class of 2014's debt being the highest on record.

"Students and families need better information and better policies to make college more affordable and debt less burdensome," she told the paper.

The finding comes amid a push by Minnesota U.S. Sen. Al Franken to make college more affordable.

The senator expressed his disappointment this past week that The Perkins Loan program, which he said helped 10,000 Minnesota students afford higher education each year, was not renewed after it failed to make it past the Senate.

"For students and families in Minnesota and around the country, college is getting more and more unaffordable, and students are taking on more and more debt," he said in a news release. "In Minnesota alone, over 10,000 students receive Perkins loans for an average of $2,000 a year each."

"But now, since the program has expired, colleges cannot make new loans to new students. We need to help more students afford college – not fewer students – and that means we shouldn’t take away this important support," he added. "I’m disappointed we weren’t able extend this important program, but I’m going to continue working hard to renew it."

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