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Fifty percent of students who graduated from a Mississippi college or university in 2017 have student loan debt, owing on average $30,268, according to a new report by LendEDU, a financial product marketplace.

That’s an increase of almost 4 percent over the amount of debt taken on by Mississippi’s Class of 2016, and about $2,000 more than the national student loan debt average of $28,288.

The report ranked Mississippi 37th in the nation on the amount of debt per borrower. The state with the highest level of student debt, an average of $36,193, was 51st-ranked Pennsylvania.

Debt averages for graduates of Mississippi’s public and private schools range from just over $19,000 to more than $35,000. Students at Blue Mountain College graduate with the least amount of debt, $19,084, but 49 percent of the school’s Class of 2017 were in debt on graduation. Graduates of the University of Southern Mississippi have the second lowest loan debt amount, owing on average $27,859; 71 percent of students graduate with debt. Members of the Class of 2017 at Millsaps College and Alcorn State owe more, with Millsaps grads owing an average of $33,569 and Alcorn grads owing $35, 680. In addition to high loan amounts, 97 percent of Alcorn grads finish school with student loan debt.

Nationwide, student loan debt can have a profound impact on graduates. Research has shown home ownership is lower among households with student loan debt. Student loan debt can also make it harder to save money for retirement. Borrowers have reported having difficulty buying daily necessities, trouble buying larger items, like cars, having to delay marriage and children, and choosing careers based on which jobs will allow them to pay off their loans.

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