Numbers released by the Project on Student Debt show four-year college grads in the United States graduated in 2009 with an average $24,000 in student loan debt, a record high, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday.
As they prepare to look for jobs to start paying off that debt, they're moving into a work environment with an 8.7 percent national unemployment rate for college graduates ages 20 to 24, also a record high.
"These are challenging times for parents and students trying to figure out how to pay for college," said Lauren Asher, president of the California-based non-profit Institute for College Access & Success that conducted the project.
"Our study shows that from state to state and from college to college, the amount of debt you can end up with varies tremendously."
Students in Washington, D.C., with an average of $30,000 debt, and New Hampshire graduates with an average $29,400 were at the top of average debt levels
Students in Utah had the lowest average debt, about $13,000.
The study found the $24,000 average student loan debt is about 6 percent higher than in 2008.