A new report finds student loan debt across the country rose 4 percent last year, with the average graduate owing about $30,000. But in New Jersey, the total is higher.

The Project on Student Debt report finds in 2015, average student debt rose 6 percent in the Garden State, with 2 out of every 3 grads owing an average of $30,104, up from $28,314 the previous year.

“New Jersey ranks 11th in average debt for graduates who are leaving school with debt, and 8th, in terms of the share of students who are leaving school with debt,” said Debbie Cochrane, vice president of the Institute for College Access & Success.

She stressed when students need to borrow in order to attend college, especially in New Jersey, federal student loans are the way to go.

“One of the things that is concerning about New Jersey we saw in the data is that students are much more likely to be taking out state loans,” she said “That’s a concern because state loans are another form of private loans, much like the loans students would get from a bank, they don’t have nearly the same consumer protections and repayment options that federal student loans do.”

Cochrane pointed out Jersey’s state student loan program is also much more rigid than the federal one.

“Consumer experts do call it predatory, for the collection tactics and the little flexibility borrowers have when they fall on hard times, and it’s also notable that when you look into New Jersey state student loans you don’t really see the types of disclosures that are often common. Students should really take out federal loans first.”

She added the problem of mounting student debt is very serious and can have dramatic ramifications.

“It can influence which type of job they take, where they’re going to live, whether they buy a car — lots and lots of life decisions can be influenced by how much debt students have,” she said.

Cochrane also said student loan debt not only varies from state to state, but also from college to college.

“Graduates from Bloomfield College in New Jersey, 95 percent of them are leaving school with debt. But graduates from Princeton, 16 percent of them are leaving with debt," she said.

"It’s also important to remember that we’re looking at averages, but no student is an average. So if we’re seeing the average graduate having $30,000 in student loan debt, a lot of graduates probably have a lot more than that.”

Student loan debt average debt of 2015 graduates in New Jersey:

  • Stevens Institute of Technology $48,244
  • Bloomfield College $46,574
  • Georgian Court University $40,927
  • NJIT $37,195
  • The College of New Jersey $36,994
  • Stockton University $33,201
  • William Paterson University $33,068
  • Kean University $32,581
  • Felician College $31,709
  • Rowan University $31,652
  • Monmouth University $31,487
  • Ramapo College $29,150
  • Rutgers-Camden $28,541
  • Montclair State University $28,070
  • Rider University $28,080
  • Rutgers-Newark $25,697
  • Rutgers $25,334
  • Caldwell University $24,615
  • Drew University $24,345
  • New Jersey City University $23,416
  • Princeton University $8,577
  • Seton Hall University $1,101

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