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Pew: Student loan debt rises sharply

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on the steps the administration is taking to increase college affordability by making it easier to manage student loan debt at the Colorado University in Denver, Colorado, on October 26, 2011.

There’s a new report out today from the Pew Research Center with some startling statistics on student loan debt. It’s rising sharply.

The report crunched numbers from the Federal Reserve and found that about one out of five households in the U.S. owed student debt in 2010 -- more than double the share of 20 years ago. The people with the most student loans are the very poorest, and the richest in the country.

Richard Fry co-authored the study. He found that, while the poor may not have as much student debt, it’s harder for them to pay it off.

“It’s probably the lowest income households where, given their other economic circumstances, that’s where the warning signals are going off," he says.

Fry says it’s hard to tell just from the numbers what effect this debt is having on all households. But he says young people are tending to put off the big leaps in life: like marriage, and buying a house.   

Twenty-five year old Gilbert Watson is in that boat.  He’s got $30,000 in student loans.

“It’s very hard for a bank or anyone to look at me and say, oh this person is a good credit risk for a house, too," Watson says. "Certainly there’s no way I can think about buying a house until I pay off a considerable bit more than I have already.”

Watson says he’ll be buying a house about ten years later than he’d planned.

 

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.
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