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The New Student Debt Numbers Are Down... But Still Terrible

The average student graduates more than $28,000 in debt.

You know what you hardly ever (okay, never) hear anybody say? "The new figures on student college debt are in and they're awesome!"

You know why? Because 37 million college graduates still collectively owe more than $1.2 trillion in loans. But on Thursday (November 13) a trio of new studies from the non-profit organization the College Board tried to shine a sliver of light on the ongoing college debt crisis with some news that shows the out-of-control price of college is, well, leveling off anyway.

With college cost and debt remaining at all-time highs and seeming like they'll stay there for the foreseeable future, the New York Times broke down some of the data. Here are the highlights:

>> Though some major state universities have recently restored student aid that was cut during the recession, tuition doubled between 2001 and 2013 to an average of nearly $9,000 for in-state students.

>> The average prices at public colleges, after inflation, rose 1% over the past two years. That widely quoted number, however, doesn't factor in the discounts colleges give in the form of financial aid.

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>> The real price people pay (after cutting out grants from colleges and the government) for a four-year public college degree dropped in 2013-2014 -- about 4% to $3,000, after inflation, from two years ago -- but they're expected to go up again a bit this year. Factoring in room and board, the average price is expected to be more than $12,800, up 1% from two years ago.

>> What you pay at private nonprofit colleges has kind of remained steady for the past 12 years, so expect to spend around $12,000 for tuition and fees and more than $23,000 with room and board.

>> In a bad news/slightly less bad news scenario, a similar report from the non-profit advocacy group the Institute for College Access and Success stated that 69 percent of graduates carried student debt with them after graduating in 2013, compared to 68 percent the year before. (The College Board said their numbers held steady at 60 percent). According to the Institute, the average debt for those borrowers was $28,400, while the College Board put it at $27,300, up about 1 percent.

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>> The 9th annual Project on Student Debt report from the Institute for College Access & Success, found that while the average graduate was $28,400 in debt, in six states (including the priciest: New Hampshire, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Minnesota and Connecticut) students owed more than $30,000. The students in the lowest debt states had around $22,000 in debt (Wyoming, Hawaii, Utah, Arizona, Oklahoma, Washington, D.C., Nevada and California), with New Mexico coming in the lowest at $18,656.

>> The College Board also found that the amount borrowed each year by the average student had dropped slightly since 2011, with total undergraduate borrowing at around $71.4 billion in 2013. That number was down 14 percent over three years, partly driven by falling enrollment, especially at a number of for-profit colleges.

If all that depresses you, keep in mind that, since October, universities in Germany have been tuition-free, even for foreign students. In fact, Germany is just one of several foreign countries that offer free, or super-cheap, educations for American students. You might also want to check out: Finland (no tuition), France (low, or no tuition for qualified students), Sweden (cheap tuition, free Ph.D. programs), Norway (no tuition for foreign students) and Slovenia (super low fees).