The latest TICAS report also cites studies that found more than one-third of recent graduates were in positions that did not require a degree, depressing wages, though other government figures cited by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce put the so-called "underemployment" rate for young college grads much lower--at around 10 percent.
As for those who have no job at all, according to Georgetown the latest monthly unemployment figure for college graduates under age 24 is 10.5 percent (the figure typically jumps each spring as a new class graduates and declines over the course of the year; last March it was 5.4 percent).
"Increasing student debt in a weak economy can be a knock-out blow to many considering college," said Rich Williams, higher education advocate with U.S. Public Interest Research Group, which advocates for students. "As our economy is recovering, lawmakers must send every signal that college is a good investment. "
Among other finding in the TICAS report:
* Private (non-federal) student loans, which generally have weaker borrower protections but have been diminishing as a source of student borrowing, accounted for about one-fifth of the debt owed by the Class of 2011.
* Debt levels vary widely by state, ranging from $17,250 in Utah to $32,450 in New Hampshire.
* Debt at individual schools ranged from $3,000 to $55,250 though not all schools report that data.
* Among colleges, the percentage of graduates with debt ranged from 12 percent to 100 percent. At 64 schools, more than 90 percent of student graduated with debt.