Average Cumulative Debt of Bachelor’s Degree Recipients at Public Four-Year Institutions over Time

About 60% of students who earned bachelor’s degrees in 2012-13 from the public and private nonprofit institutions at which they began their studies graduated with debt. They borrowed an average of $27,300.

Figure 13A: Average Cumulative Debt Levels in 2013 Dollars: Bachelor’s Degree Recipients at Public Four-Year Institutions, 1999-2000 to 2012-13

Figure 13A represents Average Cumulative Debt Levels in 2013 Dollars: Bachelor’s Degree Recipients at Public Four-Year Institutions, 1999-2000 to 2012-13.  For a corresponding Section 508-compliant data table, see http://trends.collegeboard.org/student-ai

Notes & Sources 

NOTES: Figures include federal and nonfederal loans taken by students who began their studies at the institution from which they graduated. The orange bars represent the average cumulative debt levels of bachelor’s degree recipients who took student loans. The blue bars represent the average debt per bachelor’s degree recipient, including those who graduated without student debt. Calculations are based on the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded, which may exceed the number of students receiving degrees. Reported amounts are estimates and should be interpreted with caution. The available data are not adequate to allow comparable calculations for for-profit institutions.

SOURCES: The College Board, Annual Survey of Colleges, 2001 to 2014; calculations by the authors.

  • On average, the 59% of public four-year bachelor’s degree recipients who graduated with debt in 2012-13 borrowed $25,600 (in 2013 dollars), 20% more than the average debt of the 2002-03 graduates who borrowed.
  • Average debt per public four-year college graduate, including those who did not borrow, increased by 9% (from $11,200 to $12,200 in 2013 dollars) between 2002-03 and 2007-08, and by 24% (from $12,200 to $15,100) over the next five years.