You don't have to be a math major to understand this statistic: The average student loan debt of last year's college graduates topped $25,000 — the first time it's exceeded that mark.
Seniors who graduated in 2010 had an average student loan burden of $25,250, up 5.2% from the $24,000 owed by those in the class of 2009, according to a report by the Project on Student Debt at the Institute for College Access & Success in Oakland.
Some experts had expected a bigger increase in debt given the gloomy economy, but increased financial aid at some schools partially offset the hit for low-income students and those at pricier colleges.
Still, the increased debt load is another challenge for college graduates who already were facing a punishing job market. The unemployment rate for college graduates aged 20 to 24 rose to 9.1% last year, up from 8.7% in 2009 and the highest annual rate on record, according to the nonprofit research organization.
The report is based on data reported voluntarily by more than 1,000 public and private nonprofit four-year colleges. It did not include so-called for-profit colleges.
In California, the average debt load last year was $18,113, with 48% of graduating seniors owing money, according to the study.
Students and their families (who, after all, will be footing many of the college bills) can get data on average student loan rates for many schools on the research organization's website at projectonstudentdebt.org.