The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College and The Short List: Grad School to find data that matters to you in your college or grad school search.
Student loan debt has been dubbed by some experts as the next potential financial crisis.
Outstanding student debt from federal and private loans totals close to $1.2 trillion, and more than 7 million borrowers are in default on their loans, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The student borrowing trend shows no signs of slowing down, either.
Average student loan debt climbed to $29,400 for borrowers in the class of 2012, up from $23,450 for 2008 graduates and $18,750 for 2004 graduates, annual reports from The Institute for College Access & Success show. Seventy-one percent of 2012 graduates took out loans.
[Discover 10 ways to minimize student loan debt.]
While those figures represent national averages, student borrowing habits vary widely from school to school.
At Princeton University in New Jersey, for example, only 24 percent of 2012 graduates used student loans to help fund their education. Those who borrowed had an average debt load of just $5,096, according to data reported in an annual U.S. News survey. The debt data include loans taken out by students from their colleges, from private financial institutions and from federal, state and local governments. Loans to parents are not included.
Wheelock College in Massachusetts is on the other end of the student-debt spectrum. Eighty-two percent of the class of 2012 took out loans. Those who borrowed carried an average debt burden of nearly $49,500, according to school-reported data. Graduates from Anna Maria College, also in Massachusetts, were not far behind, borrowing close to $49,200, on average.
[Video: Student loan repayment Q-and-A.]
The two schools topped this year's list of 10 schools where graduates have the most debt. At these 10 schools, 77 percent of 2012 grads borrowed student loans to the tune of more than $44,344, on average.
All of the schools on this list are private colleges and universities. Several are designated as Rank Not Published in the 2014 Best Colleges rankings, meaning they fell in the bottom one-fourth of their ranking category. U.S. News calculates ranks for these schools but does not publish them.
[Learn how to get rid of student loan debt without paying it.]
Below are the 10 colleges and universities where graduates who borrowed took on the most student loan debt. A total of 1,006 ranked colleges and universities reported average debt figures to U.S. News. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.
|School name (state)||Average debt load, class of 2012||Percentage of students who borrowed||U.S. News rank and category|
|Wheelock College (MA)||$49,439||82||69, Regional Universities (North)|
|Anna Maria College (MA)||$49,206||86||RNP, Regional Universities (North)|
|Becker College (MA)||$44,596||94.8||RNP, Regional Colleges (North)|
|Clark Atlanta University||$43,727||93||RNP, National Universities|
|Oral Roberts University (OK)||$43,457||58||54, Regional Universities (West)|
|Trinity University (TX)||$42,987||46||1, Regional Universities (West)|
|Quinnipiac University (CT)||$42,730||67||11, Regional Universities (North)|
|St. Anselm College (NH)||$42,631||79||120, National Liberal Arts Colleges|
|Mount Ida College (MA)||$42,362||79.7||37, Regional Colleges (North)|
|Utica College (NY)||$42,303||83||116, Regional Universities (North)|
Don't see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find debt rates, complete rankings and much more. School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.
U.S. News surveyed nearly 1,800 colleges and universities for our 2013 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported a myriad of data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News's data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data come from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News's rankings of Best Colleges or Best Graduate Schools. The student borrowing data above are correct as of Dec. 17, 2013.
Updated on March 18, 2014: This article was updated to remove Southeastern University, which notified U.S. News that it incorrectly reported its debt figures. Earlier, on 12/20/13, the article was updated to remove Capital University and Bryant University, for the same reason. A previous version of this article also incorrectly compared federal data with figures from other data sources used in reports by The Institute for College Access & Success.