MANKATO — After 41⁄2 years of college, Ashley Wall graduated from Minnesota State University in December 2010 with about $45,000 in student loans.
That breaks down to a payment of $175 per month over the course of 30 years. Whenever she can, Wall tries to make a bigger payment to shorten the loan term. But that’s difficult now that she’s taking on “grown-up responsibilities,” such as rent, utilities, groceries and a car payment, she said.
“What’s left of my paycheck after bills couldn’t possibly be put into savings; it’s used for getting through everyday life, like groceries and gas,” said Wall, marketing coordinator at Village Pointe Shopping Center in Omaha, Neb. “It’s really sad, but the American dream of owning a home, buying a car, getting married and starting a family has virtually turned to dust. All of those things cost money.
“And extra money, for a recent college graduate, is extremely hard to come by. And all of this is coming from someone who has landed a full-time, salaried job in her field.”
Wall is one of many Minnesota grads with tens of thousands in student debt, according to a recent study by the Institute for College Access and Success in California that looked at 2011 graduates nationwide.
Minnesota graduates have the third-highest amount of debt in the U.S. — about $29,800, compared to the national average of $26,600, according to the study. (Only New Hampshire and Pennsylvania grads had more debt.)
Among public schools in the state, MSU had the third-highest student-debt load: $29,415, which is greater than St. Cloud State University ($28,819), the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities ($28,407), and Southwest Minnesota State University ($26,394).
Why so much debt?
The average annual cost of tuition at the U of M is $11,287, according to a 2011-12 report by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. That compares to $6,668 at MSU, which is 40 percent less than the U of M, and yet graduates from MSU had about $1,000 more in student loans, according to the study.