Student loan debt tops credit card debt

A student reads a textbook in Blackwell bookshop as Oxford University commences its academic year in Oxford, England.

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The latest survey about student loan debt shows owing money to banks for college now outpaces owing money to banks for credit cards. It's the first time that's ever happened.

Mark Kantrowitz ran the student loan numbers. He publishes the websites FinAid.org and FastWeb.com. And he's with us now from just outside of Pittsburgh. Good morning sir.

MARK KANTROWITZ: Good morning.

CHIOTAKIS: What is the take away from this survey about college debt?

KANTROWITZ: Student loan debt is increasing faster than credit card debts, so it's now a macro economic factor, not just a micro economic factor. It's having a significant potential impact on the economy. And a key concern of mine is that more students each year graduate with excessive debt, more debt than they can recently afford to repay.

CHIOTAKIS: Does this mean we're raising another generation of people taking on high debt?

KANTROWITZ: The key problem is that student loan debt tends to be repaid over a 20 year term now, which means more and more students are going to still be repaying their own student loans when their children enroll in college. That may make those families less willing to borrow to pay for their children's educations. It also means that they aren't going to be as capable of saving for their children's education or even for their own retirement.

CHIOTAKIS: What do these numbers say about how these grads will be affected after they're done with school? In the job market?

KANTROWITZ: It means delaying life cycle choices like getting married, buying a home, buying a car. It means that there's going to be more focus on earning a good salary so they're less likely to pursue their particular dreams. The more debt you have, you're going to be more focused on the job that pays better and less on the job that's going to be most satisfying to you.

CHIOTAKIS: Mark Kantrowitz of Fastweb.com and FinAid.org. Thank you so much.

KANTROWITZ: Thank you for having me.

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