Loan debt doubles in two decades

by Student Writer Yu Fu

A Pew Research Center study reported that student loan debt now affected 19 percent, nearly one out of five, of U.S. households in 2010, more than double the share two decades ago. The average outstanding debt is $26,682.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, U.S. student loan debt has reached $1 trillion.

“It is really difficult to keep up with my loans myself,” said Victoria Paige Smallwood, an accounting major. “I wish my parents could help out to take some of the burden off of me.”

The percent of households with debt headed by those younger than 35 has grown from 25 percent in 1995 to 40 percent in 2010, according to the Pew Research Center.

“As the level of student debt continues to drain more and more of household resources, the standard of living of these families will be negatively impacted,” said Mark Foster, associate professor of finance.

Smallwood said rising tuition causes her loan amount to increase.

“I have a campus job, and most of my paycheck goes toward living expenses,” Smallwood said. “There is very little left over to start paying on my student loans.”

Foster said colleges will need to look for innovative methods of delivering their product to keep cost from continually rising; a healthy economic environment would aid colleges in holding down cost.

The default rate on student loans is high, according to the U.S. Department of Education, which paid $1.4 billion last year to acquire the $76 billion that are currently in default.

“Using alternative methods such as scholarships, work study and other funded programs could serve to help students from getting into the situation of owing large sums of money for student loans,” Foster said.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly 26 percent of people under 25 with a bachelor’s are unemployed, and 38 percent are underemployed. College students are not only forced to take huge student loan debt, but they are unable to look for a job to pay it off.

Foster said if the economy continues to remain in its present downturn, some individuals may choose to return to school because they are unable to find employment.

“Students with parents affected by the economy slowdown are finding themselves more responsible for paying their own way; this has increased the need for these students to seek out aid in the student loan market,” Foster said.