Graduates from Maine’s four-year colleges have some of the highest student loan burdens in the country.
According to a new report from the nonprofit Institute for College Access and Success, the average Maine college graduate last year owed more than $32,600 in student loans. That’s the eighth-highest burden in the country, but still lower than some other New England states.
Lindsay Ahlman, a senior policy analyst at the institute, says state funding cuts to higher education are partly to blame for rising student debt.
“And that means more of the cost of college shifts from states onto students and families. Which is a trend we’ve seen nationally, as well as in Maine,” she says.
Ahlman says that while growth in student loan debt has begun to slow, it can disproportionately affect low-income students, who default on loans at higher rates.
“The most effective thing that states and the federal government can do is prioritize need-based grants and bring down their college costs,” she says.
Maine’s Legislature has considered several bills to ease student debt, including a bond measure last session to forgive $250 million in student loans that was carried over to the next legislative session.
The state’s university system has also recently touted efforts to keep costs down, including freezing tuition for six years and boosting grants and scholarships.