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November 06, 2011 09:00 PM

College Graduate Debt

Sioux Falls, SD


75 percent of four year college students graduated in 2010 with debt. It's a number that puts South Dakota number one for the portion of students graduating with debt.

However, the average amount of debt is far less than many other states, at just over $23,000.

Lindsay Benedetto is in her final semester at the University of Sioux Falls, a school she quickly grew attached to.

"I felt there was a place for me here, I felt wanted and I could contribute in more ways than one," Lindsay Benedetto said.

She'll graduate from the private college in December with an English major, but attached to it will be steep student loan payments.

"Quite a bit," Lindsay Benedetto said.

But, Benedetto isn't alone on that. A new survey by The Project on Student Debt shows 75 percent of South Dakota four year college students graduated with debt in 2010. That percentage puts the state number one in the nation.

"It is a little surprising but at the same time it makes some sense if you stop and think about the numbers that we carry here in the state and the number of school options available," Laura Olson said.

Olson is the Director of Financial Aid at USF. She says while USF's numbers are lower than the national average for the amount of students taking loans, and the amount of debt, she has seen more students borrowing money.

"I think it's a sign of the times, it's like anything else in history, people are experiencing debt in a lot of areas of their lives," Olson said.

While more South Dakota College students are graduating with debt, Olson says its not necessary a bad thing, and can be looked at as an investment.

"It’s still worth it from an investment standpoint, if you have to take out the loans, get the schooling it's still important to do so from an overall lifestyle standpoint," Olson said.

Olson says while it would be ideal not to have to take out loans, student loan debt is considered good debt. And in most cases it's best to get the education even if it comes with a big bill.
Soon to be graduate, Benedetto agrees.

"Money shouldn't be an issue when you're investing in your life and the things you're going to do with it," Benedetto said.

Olson recommends doing research on colleges and programs. She says to keep in mind many colleges offer grants and scholarships, and says to apply for them.

The amount of debt students in South Dakota had ranked 25th. Iowa and Minnesota rank third and fourth.

To view the survey, click here.
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