California college debt low, but growing quickly


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College graduates of the class of 2015 left campus with an average of $30,000 in student debt, a 4 percent jump from the previous year, according to a report issued on Tuesday by The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS).

“We need to make college more affordable and debt less burdensome for students and families,” said TICAS president Lauren Asher in a written statement.

Average college debt in California was $22,000, the third lowest in the nation. But college debt is going up in California at about the same rate as it is nationwide.

Topping the California colleges list is National University, where students graduate almost $53,000 in debt.

Student debt at University of California campuses ranged from $17,869 at U.C. Berkeley to $22,580 at U.C. Santa Cruz. At California State University campuses debt among graduates ranged from $10,872 at Fresno State to $23,973 at Humboldt State.

The institute admitted there’s a big gap in the report: The debt averages don’t include information from for-profit colleges because those schools often don’t reveal how much debt their students are graduating with.

“Actual state averages may be even higher than they look,” said Diane Cheng, TICAS associate research director.

“Our state averages are based on what colleges voluntarily report about their graduates’ combined federal and private loan debt. Schools with high debt levels can opt out of providing data, and schools that do report may not know of all the private loans their students have.”

The institute has gathered U.S. Department of Education data to reveal that in 2012 student debt for graduates at for-profit colleges was about $40,000.

The report recommends, among other things, that states use financial need as the driving factor to award publicly funded grants for college students so they rely less on loans, notify students of their college loans to help them decide whether to take out more, and follow California’s lead by requiring colleges to tell students about untapped federal aid before approving private loan requests.