College students who graduated with bachelor’s degrees in 2011 left school with the largest average student debt load in history, according to a new report, the Huffington Post reports. The class of 2011 came out with an average of $26,600 in student loan debt, a 5 percent increase from $25,250 in 2010, according to the Project on Student Debt at The Institute for College Access & Success.. The increase, in line with recent years, shows student debt continues to grow faster than inflation.

“As debt levels rise, fear of loans can prevent students from getting the education they need to succeed,” said Lauren Asher, president of The Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit research and advocacy group. “Students and parents need to know that, even at similar looking schools, debt levels can be wildly different. And, if they do need to borrow to get through school, federal student loans, with options like income-based repayment, are the safest way to go.”

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