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Average Student Loan Debt Rises 4 Percent For Class Of 2015, New Report Says

Wisconsin's Average Debt For 4-Year Public, Private 2015 Graduate Is $29,460

College graduate
Gretchen Ertl/AP Photo

The average student loan debt for 2015 Wisconsin graduates of four-year public or nonprofit private institutions was $29,460, according to a new report from the Institute for College Access and Success.

Across the United States, the average student debt for 2015 graduates reached $30,100, a 4 percent increase from 2014, the report shows.

Wisconsin ranked fifth in the nation with 70 percent of its 2015 college graduates having student loan debt. Nationally, 7 in 10, or 68 percent, of 2015 graduates left with loan debt.

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There is a main factor causing Wisconsin’s ranking despite relatively low tuition and total college costs at public universities, said Debbie Cochrane, Institute for College Access and Success vice president.

“Grant aid,” Cochrane said. “The money that’s available to students to help them cover those costs that doesn’t have to be repaid, is also lower. So (the) students and families that need help in paying for college aren’t really getting an additional benefit from that grant aid.”

The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh had the highest average debt load among four-year public universities Wisconsin. The university is working to fix that statistic, Kim Donat, the university’s financial aid director, said.

“The average number of credits for the degree here is probably one of the highest in the state and we’re trying to address that,” Donat said. “We’re trying to lower that for students that are attending the university.”

Donat said students switching or having multiple majors adds time to their degrees, which can also increase costs.