Aline Carambat / Houma Courier
The average college graduate leaves campus with a diploma and tens of thousands of dollars in student-loan debt.
The total owed nationwide averaged $29,400 in 2012, according a College Access and Success study.
Locally, most Nicholls State University students leave owing comparable amounts $27,396 in 2012 and $30,069 last year.
Fletcher Technical Community College does not accept student loans.
'It sounds like a lot of money and it is a lot of money, but when you put the pencil to it, the average time to graduation is about 5.2 years,' said Eugene Dial, vice president of student affairs at Nicholls.
Annual tuition at Nicholls costs about $4,200. TOPS, the state's scholarship for in-state students who meet certain academic standards, covers the bulk of that.
But students are typically left with a balance of about $1,750, along with books, transportation and other expenses, he said.
'If they don't have disposable income at home, it's easy to see why they would borrow around $3,000 a semester. The average poverty level in our state is around 30 or 40 percent, so most families are not going to have the disposable income just to come to school,' he said.
The length of time it takes a student to earn the credits needed to graduate can also play a big role in how large the debt grows.
'Whether they're working full-time or part-time, a single parent with children at home, this all dictates how many hours a student can take a semester,' says Dial.
Whether the degree is worth the debt, depends on who you ask.
Michelle DeLoach of Thibodaux says it was a good investment.
'I have a significant amount of law school loan debt, but do not regret it or else I would not be an attorney now,' DeLoach says in a comment posted on the Daily Comet's Facebook page.