The 35 colleges where graduates have the most student debt

In August 2022, President Biden announced his plan for student loan forgiveness, garnering elation from many borrowers and criticism from those who felt the measure did not go far enough to alleviate the financial burden. However, the plan’s rollout did not go smoothly. As millions of borrowers’ applications flooded in—and the student loan debt crisis exceeded $1.74 trillion—student loan forgiveness is projected to hit a snag—or several.

Several court cases have continued to stall forgiveness efforts, tying up the execution of debt cancellation in legal purgatory. The sheer volume of applications has also created a backlog of roughly 2 million candidates, resulting in wait times exceeding three months. Further delaying the loan forgiveness process for many applicants are ongoing proceedings in a $6 billion settlement against a group of colleges, many of which are private for-profit institutions accused of defrauding students and other misconduct. Several colleges named in the settlement have appealed the decision.

As college enrollment continues to decline due to various factors — lack of affordability, fear of taking on debt, and doubts about the value of a degree, among others — making an informed decision about which college to attend has taken on an even greater sense of emergency. Stacker ranked the 35 colleges with the highest median debt after graduation, using Department of Education data on more than 5,200 US colleges for the 2020-21 school year.

This analysis only includes loans accumulated while at the school awarding the graduation credentials — it doesn’t include private loans, parent loans, or loans originated at other schools for transfer students. Average annual costs, compiled by the DOE, include tuition, housing, materials, and fees, minus the average grants and scholarships awarded. They are listed, along with estimated enrollment, but don’t factor into the ranking.

Many schools on the list are private for-profit schools, which have long been embroiled in accusations of predatory lending behavior. Religious schools and art and design institutions are also frequent additions. Only one school on the list is a public university.

Read on to find out where college graduates accrue the most student debt.

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