SC student loan debt reaches new high, report finds

Average student loan debt in South Carolina has reached a new high of $36,552, according to a new report from Experian.

That’s a 5.9 percent increase over last year’s average student loan debt, which was $34,515. In the last five years, S.C. student loan debt has increased 30 percent, the report shows.

Though S.C. is a poor state, its students have more loan debt than the national average of $35,359, the report found.

Researchers calculate student loan debt differently. For example, Experian’s report claims nationwide student loan debt has just breached $1.4 trillion, while Student Debt Crisis, a nonprofit advocate for reducing student loan debt, puts that number at $1.6 trillion, a difference of roughly $200 billion.

However, even when studies disagree on methods and conclusions, they tend to agree student loan debt in South Carolina is among the highest in the country, according to a previous article from The State.

State lawmakers cited the increasing student debt as a reason for approving $36 million for S.C. colleges to “freeze” tuition for next school year. However, those increases do not apply to housing and food costs. Clemson University, for example, raised in-state tuition 1 percent — which it was allowed to do in order to cover state mandated pension and healthcare cost increases — but it also increased the cost of room and board.

With Clemson’s changes, housing will cost between $59 and $418 more per year, and freshman meal plans will cost between $189 and $208 more per year, according to a release from Clemson and a previous article from The State.

USC has not set tuition and fees for the 2019-2020 school year.