Reports: W.Va. ranks 25th in student debt

CHARLESTON (AP) – West Virginia ranks 25th in the nation in terms of the average debt that recent college graduates have, according to a recently released report.

Nationwide, the Project on Student Debt report says seven in 10 college seniors who graduated in 2012 had student loan debt. The average student loan debt was $29,400, although it varies widely by type of school and region of the country. Student debt was typically higher in the Northeast and Midwest, and low-debt states were concentrated in the South and the West.

In West Virginia, the report said, the average loan debt for all recent graduates was $26,227.

The report also said about 54 percent of West Virginia’s recent college graduates had student debt, ranking it 38th in the country for that measure.

The report was produced by the nonprofit research group Institute for College Access and Success, and released earlier this month. The institute also released an online database that allows student debt to be viewed by school. At West Virginia University, the average student debt is $27,511. That figure is higher than the state average; however, the percentage of students with debt is lower than the statewide figure, at 42 percent.

State lawmakers were scheduled to hear a verbal report about the Class of 2012’s student debt during a legislative interim meeting Monday. College affordability is one of the topics state lawmakers have been studying in the past year as they search for ways to get more residents enrolled in higher education programs.

In-state tuition at West Virginia’s public colleges and universities is lower than most other states, but many students still need to borrow money to make ends meet.

The online database says 62 percent of full-time freshmen at West Virginia four-year colleges received federal student loans, averaging about $5,800. Another 54 percent of full-time freshmen received institutional grants, averaging about $4,100. The report says the average cost of attendance for in-state students, including tuition, fees, housing and other things, is about $19,000 in West Virginia. Nationwide, the average cost of attendance at a four-year college was $28,813.