Thursday poll: college debt

College debt has been making headlines these last few weeks for a multitude of reasons, none of which I particularly cared about. So today I figured I’d check in and see just how much college debt the average Punch Debt In The Face reader graduated with.

[poll id=”13″]

For extra credit share you debt amount, when you graduated, and what your major was below.


80 thoughts on “Thursday poll: college debt”

  1. I think it was about 33k, inc interest(indexation to CPI here in AUS)

    Majored in finance then post grad – masters in logistics. Graduated 2005, All paid off by 2011 I think.

    Repayments here through the tax system, but back then they offered a 10% discount for lump sum payments, so my last payment was about 15k to clear it in one go.

  2. I graduated from a community college in the early 80s with a major in business admin and had no debt but I lived at home, car shared at no cost with my mom and tuition was dirt cheap. I think tuition was just over $400 per semester and my dad gave me some money. Working my way through college was not a big accomplishment and I didn’t work very hard.

    My 2 sons are in universities away from home and will both graduate with 40K in debt. Rent, tuition for university is so much more than college and barely any help from their father who earns about 140K per year. I help as much as I can and I have a lot of HELOC debt to show for it.

    • The cost of college has run laps around the price of inflation. As someone who spends a lot of time writing about dealing with student loan debt, it is nice to see someone who paid their way through recognize that it is much more difficult to do in 2013.

  3. I think the original amount was just under $17K but I also paid probably 10K in cash when I could. I graduated in 2007 with a BS in chemistry.

  4. None. It was almost free. Dad paid whatever was necessary.

    I wouldn’t want to start life with a boatload of debt and I was very lucky.

  5. None – my parents were awesome and paid for college. Graduate school was a whole ‘nother story though.

  6. $0 if you’re only counting undergrad (thank you scholarships and two very awesome parents). My MA cost me $30,000+, and now I’m using my PhD stipend (well, a very small part of it) to start paying off those student loans. Only $16,000 to go!

  7. Undergrad-2009-$0 Thanks to being an RA, scholarships & on campus Americorps

    Graduate School-2010- $17,225…currently down to $8,900 goal to have it all gone by December 2013 🙂

    • I’m about right where you are Mary. My student loan debt total is $8,600 and my goal is to have it paid off by December 31, 2013!

      I started with $50,000 in debt from both undergraduate and graduate school. The graduate school loans are paid off and now I’m working on the final loan from undergrad. It feels so good to almost have it gone!

  8. $0 – my Dad’s employer had a program that would pay up to a certain amount of college/university tuitions; they paid for my tuition and books… I paid $10 for my locker fee.

  9. I graduated with $12,000 in student loans and my degree was a BBA in International Business. I don’t use my degree at all in my current job, but a business degree is a business degree is a business degree. I paid off my student loans last December after 8 years….it took me awhile to realize that I should pay more than the minimum 😉

    Looking back I could have gotten out of school with no debt, but some times I would work and then not work for a couple of months. I spent a lot of money on silly things that were a lot of fun! Often times my school loan wouldn’t go to pay for school at all, but to pay for my fun. I also had grants and scholarships.

  10. I graduated with a degree in Education I owed $11,000. I am in Canada so my tuition was likely less than it would have been in the States. I have been teaching since then.
    I did a Masters degree later and just paid that as I went along.

  11. Graduated in 1994 with an Engineering degree. No debt. Lived at home and used the co-op program (starting in year 2 — work 4 months, school 4 months until done).

    Not using the degree at all…….

  12. Law school, ’09. Not surprisingly, I’m in the 100-150k club! Steadily paying it off using about half my salary (higher than the monthly minimum payment), while we live on the other half + my husband’s. But with a baby on the way in December, will probably have to reduce the monthly payment. Those suckers are expensive!

    • Jess,
      Wife went to a private law school (when we had a little one). We lived well below the poverty level (you actually can really eat and house your family in America under the poverty level without welfare – not particularly well, but it can be done). Just one word of advice – don’t go buying all that baby crap that’s the latest craze. He/she really won’t need it and all the $ you don’t throw away on that will go a long ways to reducing that awful law school debt. Not preaching – just saying – been there, done that. Best of luck.

      • Thanks! We live well below our means (though there is always room for improvement!) and have gotten most baby stuff second hand. I’m more referring to the cost of daycare, which will unfortunately take up a significant chunk of our monthly budget going forward!

  13. I took my undergraduate degree in 1971, when costs were far lower than today. My parents paid it all. During graduate school I worked as a teaching assistant and lived very cheaply. I did take out one loan for $1500 during the last year of my dissertation in 1977. Major: originally was music, but I got all my degrees in English.

  14. Paid my own way, went to school out of state and had to take out loans to cover what I couldn’t pay with my part-time jobs. Graduated in 2009 with a degree in advertising.

  15. About $21K, graduated in 2004 with my school’s version of a poli sci degree. I paid off my loans in 2.5 years. I went to a very expensive private university. That $21K is after a $45K scholarship, a $15K scholarship, two $5K scholarships, a monthly stipend, and working most of those years in part time jobs. My parents didn’t pay for any of my college except a couple things like buying my dorm linens. I’m lucky to have escaped with only $21K in loans. Most of my friends had $100K in loans when they graduated.

  16. about $10,000 from undergrad ( state school) then another $35,000 for a graduate degree–I’m down to $32,000 total, but (and, does any one else have any experience with this?)
    I just re-consolidated my loans into the debt forgiveness program ( Through Fed Direct)– Turns out I was eligible for it the whole time, but my loans were privately held so the loan payments didn’t count toward the “on time payments”. still kicking myself about that. I finished my MS in 2003, I could have been done this year ( I’ve worked in education the whole time, and so would have been eligible after 10 years of on time payments)…but now, if I keep my full time status at my job and continue to make on time payments the balance of my loans will all get forgiven in 2023.
    I go back and forth about if this is the way to go, or if I should be making double payments and trying to get it gone as fast as possible instead?

  17. Graduated in 2009 with a degree in Biology and $33,000 in debt. Now I’m in grad school and my loans are in deferment. I’ve paid $9,000 on the ones that were bearing interest and am on track to have saved enough to pay the rest off when I finish my PhD.

  18. I graduated in 2007 from a private university with a BS in chemical engineering with $3600 in debt. I was very blessed though to not only have some huge scholarships to that school, but also two parents who had planned ahead for college for my sister and I and were able to help out with other fees and expenses. I got my MS in chemical engineering debt free – got a full ride (plus a $25K year salary as a teaching assistant!) to cover that.

  19. I graduated with no debt. I went to an in-state school that offered me a full ride due to academic success in high school. I had scholarships that covered 4 years. I managed to graduate with my B.S. in Global Business in 3 years, and my MS Supply Chain in 1 year. So expenses were covered for the majority of my education. After I started working, my company paid for my the rest of my MBA ($8,000). I had already done a lot of classes before. My parents did give me around $10,000 throughout the first three years to help with living expenses.
    I’m very glad I was able to graduate debt free because I would hate to be making student loan payments.

  20. I did well in High School and on the SAT and got a 100% scholarship (tuition only). I also worked during high school to save up money to pay for living expenses. My parents helped some but all told they only chipped in probably around $15,000.

    I also did crazy stuff to keep my living expenses down. One year we had 4 guys living in a 3 bedroom crap-hole of an apartment. Rent (including utilities) was $185 per person, per month!!! All the sacrifice was worth it to graduate with an electrical engineering degree, no debt, and a great paying job when I graduated. (I graduated in 2006)

    • At my school everyone had at least 2 people in the same room and the rent was still 600+ per person.

  21. I graduated in 2009 with a BA in Philosophy. My tuition was 100% paid for thanks to my grandmother and her investing in the Texas Tomorrow Fund.

    But, my parents encouraged me to take every single loan that was offered to me since I still had room and board to pay for and I did not elect to educate myself about borrowing money. Regrettably, I took their advice. I graduated with $25k in debt.

  22. I owed about 20k when I graduated in 2004 with a BS in Information Systems, but it was a personal loan from my mother, so there was no interest. I finished paying it off last year, it would have been sooner, but she yelled at me every time the monthly check increased in size.

  23. Debt: $0. Math major, Statistics minor. Two years private school, five years public university. Parents paid for a bunch, I worked lots of part-time jobs along the way and every summer to pay for the rest. It wasn’t easy, but it was a lot easier than paying off interminable student loan debt.

  24. $24k – Environmental Science in 2009. Down to my last $550! Will finish two years of graduate programs next September with no additional debt 🙂

  25. No debts.. Print Journalism – Worked almost every weekend as a dishwasher, lived at home, took the train.
    One credit short of graduating. Now I work in I.T, its all good..

  26. About $10k from a BS in Electrical Engineering that I graduated with in 2011. Lived at home and got plenty of scholarships to keep that amount low. Parents said they’d pay for college but they’re doing so by sending me the minimum payment every month… I’m paying extra cause I want it all gone and it soon will be!

  27. I had no debt from undergrad, but finished law school with approximately $49k in debt. Got a high-paying job and have been putting any bonuses towards taking big swipes out of it, but have diverted money away from paying it off in favor of some large one time expenses (condo down payment, engagement ring and wedding fund).

  28. I graduated with $0 in Student loans, but I inherited $25,000 of my wife’s student loans when we got married. We currently have them down to $12,000.

  29. I graduated from college in 1991 with a degree in Finance. My student loan debt was ~ $4,000. The rest was paid by summer work, my parents, and scholarships. I feel fortunate.

  30. The second time I went to grad school (first student loan was already paid) I accumulated $45K with a Masters degree in Speech Language Pathology in Dec 2004. I was able to consolidate at 2.5% and have paid about $12K already.

  31. My debt was about 25k, but that was for both undergrad (~11k) and grad (14k) schools
    graduated undergrad with a geography degree in 2007 and grad school in 2009 with masters in planning.

  32. All I have to say is we paid for my husband to go to PT school…

    Our plan of attack is to live off of my income for a few years to make a significant dent in our student loan debt (that looks more like a mortgage).

  33. Undergrad – 2008 with $0 (Small state school, scholarships, 80 hrs/week during summer, 20+ hrs/week in school)
    Grad (Masters of Accounting) – 2009 with $9.5k (Same school but no scholarship, so I decided I wanted to live a little (or, as the case ended up being, a lot 😉
    Paid it all in a lump sum the day before the 6 month grace period from graduation date expired and currently work in a finance/accounting position, so use the degree daily.

  34. Approximately $20k total even after going through the co-op program, working an extra two semesters, and working in fast food on the “lighter” semesters. Tuition more than doubled while I was in school.

    Bachelors in Civil Engineering 2011, and it was/is worth every penny (minus interest).

  35. Undergraduate (2011) had $0 student loans, paid my way, worked 3-4 part time jobs, scholarships and some help from my dad. It was in History with a secondary teaching certificate that I thought I’d never use… Fast forward to graduate school and I took on $14000 and climbing (interest) in student loans because of my stupidity, graudated May 2013, curriculum and instruction, and glad I got a teaching job right away.

  36. Graduated from my undergrad in 2008 with about $21k in student loans for an accounting degree. There were some living expenses rolled into that amount, and a summer studying abroad which I consider more than worth it. Scholarships/grants and some help from my parents kept the debt manageable. I’ve paid off about 40% to date. While I would love to get rid of it ASAP, I am saving for a down payment & wedding so I’ll continue at my current pace for a while and go from there.

  37. A graduated with about $13k in debt, but my parents agreed to pay $5k since my scholarships helped them out more than me at the time. I graduated in December 2008 with a B.A. in History.

    My loan is the only bit of debt I have left now after paying off $15k in the past week due to selling my condo. Since I’m more than half way thru my service time in the Federal Government to have my loan forgoven, I’ve decided to not aggressively pay off this loan since at least half will be forgiven.

  38. I graduated with a Finance degree in 1987 and a law degree in 1990. My parents paid for every bit of it, God bless them!!

  39. After a BS and a MA in education, I sat at $72k in student loans in 2011. And that’s even with working the whole time, sharing bedrooms, etc. I’m currently sitting pretty, just passing under the 60k mark a month ago!

  40. Had about 9500 after an undergrad in Secondary Education/English in 1996 (mom helped me a lot in the first two years and I worked my ass off the whole time to only take loans for tuition). Grad school was a pay-as-I-went thing, but eventually I racked up about 5K more in finishing my last degree.

    These poor kids coming out today with 100k plus…yikes. It would make me want to cry.

  41. I had just over $10,000 of student loan debt when I graduated in 2010 and majored in nursing. Lucky for me, I get reimbursed for my student loan payments twice a year from the hospital where I work.

  42. Graduated 2010 with $0 in student loans, but made up for it with my wife’s $30,000. Degree is B.S. Chemical Engineering.

  43. I graduated with $55,000 in debt and an honours B.A. in Dramatic Art, a certificate in Arts Management, and because that wasn’t enough, a post-degree diploma also in Arts Management. Dumb, because I work at a theatre now and I hate it.

  44. Where’s the option ‘None- full ride scholarship’? I graduated with a Computer Engineering degree and 2 minors (math and French). The minors are pretty useless though. I forgot most of my French and barely use much advanced math on my job.

  45. Graduated in 2007 with 100k then married someone I met in school to add in another 100k to the pot. Both engineers, but not making as lucrative as a salary as you think. Also, I was unemployed and living off one salary for 2.5 years. We both dislike our jobs and can’t wait for an exit strategy outside engineering. Too bad we still owe 75k.

    I wish I never went to school and learned a trade instead…

    By the time we payoff our loans it will be like we bought a house with cash. Except we will have no equity or anything to show for it. The worst part is seeing the amount you’ve paid solely to interest so far… It’s almost at 50k.

    I worked 20+ hours a week all through school. In the summers I worked 2 jobs and worked 60+ hours a week.

  46. Made it through 15 months of college. Never wanted to go but my mother insisted. My parents ended up about $1500 out of pocket after my scholarships. Making $42,000 in a small town in Kentucky at a factory where the majority of jobs are in fast food. My wife never went to college and is currently training as a mortgage underwriter with a potential salary of $35,000 before performance based bonuses starting put. Didn’t see much from people that didn’t go to college and thought I would share. $80,000 a year will get you far in small town America.

  47. Graduated in 1990 with about 9k in loans with BS in Finance.

    I worked 30 hours a week while I went to school to pay for books, room and board.

    I was lucky my dad paid most of my tuition.

  48. Graduated in 2008 with a degree in Theology and Religious Education. Took out $65,000 originally in loans and by the time of graduation they were already at $85,000 with the interest. They’re now down to about $50,000.

    • Tammy,
      Could you please help me explain to my son how the interest rates on school loans will “up” the amount you owe? I’ve tried and he doesn’t seem to get it. I’m smacking my head against the wall. Any advice/suggestions you may have would be very much appreciated. Thanks.

      • When you take out a loan, interest starts getting assessed on it immediately (unless it is a subsidized loan) even though you do not have to make payments on it til after school. Because interest is accruing, and you are not making any payments, the loan balance that you owe increases every month until you start making payments.

        As far as suggestions, if your son is still living with you, I’d suggest you start “charging” him $250 per month (take the money & put it into a savings account for him). When he doesn’t like it, tell him you’re just giving him practice for when he needs to repay all his student loan debt.

        Hope he doesn’t end up learning the hard way about student loan debt, Good Luck!

  49. None and graduated in Computer Engineering. Accomplished this with scholarships, Pell & Smart grants and working as a TA 15-20 hours a week. Being a TA earning $11 an hour helped a lot along with summer jobs in computing.

  50. $17k for a physics BS, finished in 2007. I had some scholarships and my parents paid the bulk of the enormous tuition bill. My husband’s savings paid my debt when we got married. 🙂

    Now I’m getting a PhD in biomedical engineering, but they pay me for that.

  51. I’m starting college in the Fall when I plan to obtain my degree in Engineering. The government offered me $5,500 which I was forced to accept, because while my school offered me an amazing loan, with the steep tuition prices, I needed more. I’m hoping and planning to not have more than $10,000 worth of debt when I graduate in 2017.

  52. I had 25K when I finished my first degree. I wasn’t able to work while during my second degree and that caused me to take on an addition 25K for that year :(. I’m now living aboard and paying it off slowly but the cost of getting over here (and the temptation to travel) has been more expensive than expected… so I’ve added about 5K to my debt so I’m now sitting on about 52K despite my efforts. I’m hoping by the end of my second year here I’ll see some improvements!

    Bachelor of Arts – Hons. Specialization in Psychology (2011)
    Bachelor of Education (2012)

  53. I graduated from a Bachelor of Applied Financial Services degree, with about 15,000-17,000 of debt. It would have been around $20,000, but in my final year of the program I paid the tuition out of my own pocket. Also I had enough saved to pay off the entire amounts almost immediately after graduating. I didn’t pay off the debt during school because in Canada, if you take out a ‘Canada Student Loan’ as long as I was a full-time student I did not have to pay interest on the loans.

  54. I graduated in 2002 with a B.A. in History and about 23K in debt. After going to school part time for ever, I was 31 when I graduated and had no illusions that a history degree would get me some great job. I definitely did it for personal enrichment and I do not regret borrowing money to do it.

    I do, however, regret not working harder to limit my debt load. I worked the entire time and had some scholarships to help but borrowed more than I probably should have. Then, I had a crappy job at the time I had to start repaying so I took the longest possible repayment term at the lowest monthly payment. If I don’t work on paying down that debt (which I do plan to do after closing on my house), I will be 52 by the time my loans are paid off which is ridiculous. At least I consolidated them at a good time and have a 2% fixed rate until they are paid so it could be worse!

    • Lola,
      You hang in there. You’ll get it done. Wife graduated from a private law school in 1986 – all of it was paid for with loans at somewhere between 7 – 9 % interest and we had a little kid at the time. She was just a couple of years younger than you when we started paying that off. I don’t remember the total amount, but we were also paying off my undergrad loans at the time too. Unbeknownst to me (’cause she did all the bills) she paid 2x the minimum due on all our loans. Man were we broke – but boy did we feel “rich” when they were all paid in full. I’m glad I didn’t know she was paying double otherwise I’m afraid I would have seriously objected to that. Looking back, it was a good way to go. Just tell yourself you owe twice as much as you really do (and make yourself believe it so you don’t cheat). I swear you will not regret it. Best of luck.

      • Thanks Jim! I have paid off about $25,00 in credit card and car loan debt, plus saved enough for a down payment on a house in the last 4 1/2 years so I know I can do it if I prioritize it. Saved paying off the student loans for last since the interest reate was so low. Not only will I up the amount I pay, but will also apply any “extra” money I have – refunds, bank dividend, tax return money, etc. I think I can knock out the remaining 11K in 2-3 years. Thank you for the encouragement!

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  56. Graduated in ’08 with 32k in debt but I’m down to 5k now, the 32k is after a half scholarship (tuition-only). I worked a job and internship the entire time but had no parental support so I think I did pretty well actually.

    I have two degrees: one in linguistics and one in communications and I don’t use either (I’m a database admin) and I still don’t know how to feel about that but at least by the end of the year it’ll be all paid off 🙂

  57. I graduated undergrad with $0 in student loans. My parents had set aside a good amount to help me with college — enough to pay in-state tuition at a state school — but I kicked ass with huge scholarships and ended up going to a private liberal arts college and graduated without debt. I graduated in 2007 with majors in economics and sociology. I took a small student loan for my master’s degree (graduated 2012), which I am aggressively punching in the face right now.

  58. 27,000 in debt. I have a degree in Television and Radio, and a degree in Chemistry (I wanted to do scientific documentaries)

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  60. Graduated 2007, Mechanical Engineering with 23k in loans, almost paid back, but the remainder is low enough interested not in a hurry.

  61. I graduated a month ago (June 2013) and had $12,5000 of student loan debt. I started off at a community college which was paid for via grant money, but when I transferred to my state university I just couldn’t pay anything out of pocket.

    So far I’m down to $10,000, with an expected payoff in 10 months. Hopefully anyway! Things don’t really seem to go as planned sometimes.

  62. $0 thanks to a football scholarship

    Education degree graduated in 2000

    I paid for 2 MA degrees out of pocket as I went along. Ed Tech and Ed Administration.

  63. Graduated in 1985 with BA, no debt. My parents helped me through. MA, 1993, again no debt. I had a tuition scholarship and a TA plus got money to go overseas for my thesis research.

  64. I went to two different, change the majors twice and graduated with a degree in business marketing. In the neighborhood of 52,000. I finshed in the summer of 2008 and started paying in 2009. I have a finish date of December 2014. I just paid off all credit debt and moved a cheaper apartment. Reading blogs, books and Suze O, I have surpassed my wildest dreams!

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