Class of 2013 grads average $35,200 in total debt

  @blakeellis3 May 17, 2013: 12:39 PM ET
student loan debt

Members of the class of 2013 are graduating with an average $35,200 in college-related debt


The class of 2013 is in for a rude awakening this graduation season.

Between ballooning student loans, credit cards and money owed to family members, they are facing an average $35,200 in college-related debt, a Fidelity survey of 750 college graduates shows.

And for half of this year's graduates, the amount of debt they racked up while in school comes as a shock.

"We're tending to find people are still surprised at the level of debt they're graduating with, which suggests we still have a long way to go in terms of having conversations about planning for college, saving for college and figuring out the best place to go [to college]," said Keith Bernhardt, vice president of college planning at Fidelity Investments.

Related: Where student loans are most delinquent

The bulk of the class of 2013's debt is in government loans, with graduates owing an average of $26,000. They also had an average of $19,000 in private loans, $18,000 in state loans, $13,000 in personal and family loans and $3,000 in credit card debt.

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After realizing the extent of their debt, 39% said they would have done things differently -- like saving earlier, more thoroughly researching financial aid or looking for ways to save more and spend less while at school -- that's up from 25% in 2011.

A small group, or 12% of graduates, regretted their decisions entirely, saying their college education didn't justify the debt burden.

Related: Student debt delays spending, saving - and marriage

But now they're forced to face reality. Half of respondents said tackling their student debt is a financial priority, and half said it will take them more than nine years to become debt-free.

The majority, or 92%, say they will pay back their debt using income from their job, 25% said they will get help from their parents or family, 24% will use their savings and 21% will get a second job. About 7% of graduates don't plan on ever being able to entirely pay off their loans.

Others started taking action earlier to try to soften the blow. About 85% of college graduates contributed their own money toward college costs -- with 27% reporting that they contributed more than $10,000. And 57% said they chose their major specifically because they thought it would land them a higher-paying job. To top of page

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