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Report: 2010 Minnesota college grads averaged $29K in debt; BSU grads finished with less debt

MINNEAPOLIS -- A new report finds Minnesota students are near top in the nation in yet another category, college debt. And leading the list among public colleges is the University of Minnesota Duluth.

A higher percentage of the class of 2010 from Minnesota colleges and universities graduated in debt and owed more money on average than graduates in the rest of the nation, according to a new report.

The Project on Student Debt reported today that Minnesota students who took out loans graduated with an average of $29,058 in education debt, the fourth-highest in the nation. It also found that 71 percent of the Minnesota class of 2010 graduated in debt, the fifth highest share nationally.

Among public colleges in Minnesota, students at UMD graduated with the most average debt, at about $30,098 on average, closely followed by Minnesota State University-Moorhead ($29,410) and Winona State University ($29,123), according to the report.

In contrast, 2010 Bemidji State University students graduated with an average of $26,799 of debt. Of BSU graduates that year, 89 percent finished their college careers with debt, according to the report.

The figures were compiled from survey data by the group, which is affiliated with The Institute for College and Success, a California-based nonprofit that promotes higher education access and affordability. The data does not include students at for-profit colleges.

Nationally, the average graduating debt was $25,250. The report said students in the Northeast and Midwest usually had higher debts than those in the West. New Hampshire had the highest average debt at $31,048, while Utah was lowest at $15,509.

Larry Pogemiller, the new director of Minnesota's Office of Higher Education, said the numbers illustrate how expensive higher education has become. "It's kind of getting out of hand, it is out of hand," he said.

Secondly, the state's education leaders better make sure that pricey education is worth it. "If the quality doesn't support that (debt), it's a double problem," he said.

Among the private colleges listed, graduates of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design were tops at nearly $44,385, followed by the College of St. Scholastica ($40,816) and a tie between the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul and Crown College in St. Bonifacius, both at $38,402.

However, the average graduating debts for one of the state's most expensive private colleges, Macalester College in St. Paul, was not included in the report.