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Tennessee graduates are less likely to have student loan debt than students in other states. And those who do owe less.

That good news comes from the new Project on Student Debt report, issued by the nonprofit Institute for College Access & Success.

The report shows that graduates of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have less debt than graduates from many of the state’s private colleges. UT graduates also averaged less debt than graduates from two of state’s public institutions, East Tennessee State University and the University of Memphis.

The report gathered information from public and private nonprofit institutions that grant bachelor’s degrees. The report looked at students who graduated in 2010.

Key numbers:

  • AMOUNT OF DEBT: Statewide in 2010, students graduated with average of $19,957 in loan debt. Tennessee ranked forty-second in the nation for student loan debt; the national average was $25,250.
  • PERCENT WITH DEBT: Forty-six percent of Tennessee’s 2010 graduates faced student loan debt upon graduation; the national average was 58 percent.
  • UT STATISTICS: About 48 percent of UT’s 2010 graduates left with debt and their average student loan debt was $19,987.

UT’s student debts statistics have remained pretty steady since 2010.

“Despite tuition raises, we’ve seen an increase in applications and student data suggest the university is finding a way to provide access to our most needy students,” said Richard Bayer, assistant provost and director of enrollment services.

UT’s need-based scholarships include the Pledge, which is awarded to low-income students; the Promise, which goes to students from high schools that don’t traditionally send many students to UT; and the Achieve the Dream grant program for middle-income students.

Only two other southeastern states fared better than Tennessee in the student debt report. Kentucky ranked forty-third, with average student debt of $19,375; Georgia ranked forty-fourth with an average of $18,888. Other low-debt states include Utah, with the least average student debt of $15,509, Hawaii, New Mexico, Nevada, California, Arizona, and Wyoming.

The highest-debt states include New Hampshire and Maine, which topped the list with $31,048 and $29,983, respectively; Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Ohio, Indiana, Rhode Island, and New York.

To read the full report, go to

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-771-9127,