Average student debt rose to $24,000 for the class of 2009. The Project on Student Debt, which has for the last five years released information about total college debt information, has just published its latest report. According to the study:

[This] $24,000 in student loan debt [is] up six percent from the previous year.1 The six percent increase in average debt at the national level is similar to the average annual increase over the past four years, despite the recent economic downturn. It is likely that the Class of 2009 took out the bulk of their student loans before the recession began.

In the current economic climate, recent college graduates who borrowed for their education face unique challenges in paying back their student loans. The unemployment rate for young college graduates rose from 5.8 percent in 2008 to 8.7 percent in 2009, the highest annual rate on record.

This means that it’s going to be much harder for graduates to pay back those loans.

The report points out that while in general students who attend high-tuition schools are also faced with high debt, there are notable exceptions. The total annual cost of attending schools like Cal Tech, Princeton, and Williams is in the $40,000 range. Thanks to a special focus on reducing student debt, however, the average borrower leaves these schools less than $10,000 in the red.

The study also lists particularly high and low debt colleges, both public and private.

The report did not look at graduate debt loans at for-profit colleges. The Project on Student Debt points out, however, that “almost all graduates from for-profit four-year colleges (96 percent) took out student loans.” On average they borrowed about 45 percent more than people who attended regular colleges.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer