COLLEGE PARK – College students in Maryland left school last year with more debt than ever before, according to a new report released Thursday.
The average college graduate in Maryland had $21,750 in student loan debt in 2010, according to the report by the Institute for College Access & Success’ Project on Student Debt, a nine percent increase from the year before.
The increase in student debt comes as salaries for new graduates have stagnated, making it difficult for them to pay back loans, said Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of FinAid and FastWeb, which tracks the student loan industry.
“Students are being asked to pay back more debt on the same salaries,” he said.
Though student loan debt in Maryland increased sharply, graduates in the state are better off than students in most other states, the report found. Maryland had the 18th lowest average student debt in the country.
But the student debt load in is increasing much faster in Maryland than in the United States as a whole. Nationally, the average debt was $25,250 in 2010, a five percent bump from the year before.
The actual average student loan debt in Maryland could be higher, as some schools do not submit complete data on graduate debt to the institute, Kantrowitz said.
Kantrowitz said he believes the average nationwide student debt will continue to increase for the next two years. Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, he projected that graduates in 2012 will average $28,720 in debt.
Eric Kozlik, a graduate student at the University of Maryland who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in May 2011, said he did not know why debt does not bother more students. He said he wants to make sure he leaves school prepared to reduce his debt.
“I’m going to keep playing this game until I have enough education to have a comfortable job where I can pay my loans off,” he said.
The Project on Student Debt began publishing its annual report on student borrowing in 2005. The institute sends out surveys to non-profit, four-year private and public schools.
Lauren Asher, the president of the Institute for College Access & Success, said the increasing debt levels should not discourage someone from pursuing a degree.
“If you borrow in federal loans, even this average debt number can remain manageable,” she said.