Pa. students bear second-most loan debt in nation, but is change on the horizon?

Lynne Adkins
November 15, 2018 - 4:00 am

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Congratulations, you're a college graduate — and you're now in debt.

But Lindsay Ahlman, a senior policy analyst for The Institute for College Access and Success, which researches ways to make college more affordable, said the next Congress intends to take up the issue of student debt.

"About two in three students who earn a bachelor's degree from public and nonprofit colleges leave with debt," she noted. "Those students leave with an average of just under $29,000 in debt."

According to The Institute for College Access and Success' recently released annual student debt report, students in the Northeast have the heaviest burden of loan debt.

Pennsylvania came in second of all states across the country with the highest average student loan debt, around $35,759. The study also found about 68 percent of Pennsylvania grads have student debt.

Student loan debt won't be going away anytime soon, but Ahlman said impending changes could help students deal with the numbers. 

"We're actually in a very big moment right now in higher education policy," she said, "as Congress revisits the Higher Education Act, which is a large, comprehensive bill that touches all aspects of higher education, including the federal student loan program." 

Ahlman said states must allocate additional money for public institutions, and students must do more work before taking on huge debt: They should research and understand the cost of college, give more consideration to community colleges, apply for all available federal loans and grants, and consider working. 

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This is a series of special reports by KYW Newsradio's Lynne Adkins, produced by Kristina Hammershchmidt.