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Student debt burden hits $1 trillion

At $1 trillion nationally, student debt surpasses credit card debt and car loans, and it can be a serious drag on the economy. Here, a student studies in the main library at the University College London.

Jeremy Hobson: President Obama will be in Iowa today talking to college students about their loans. The president wants to prevent a scheduled increase in student loan interest rates that's supposed to take effect this summer. Mitt Romney is also pushing for a freeze on student loan interest rates -- but let's put the politics aside for a moment and focus on the issue.

By some estimates, there is now a trillion dollars in outstanding student loan debt, as Sally Herships reports.


Sally Herships: How much is $1 trillion of student debt?


Mark Kantrowitz:
There's more student debt outstanding than credit card debt outstanding, more student loan than auto loans outstanding.

That's Mark Kantrowitz. He publishes Finaid.org, a website about paying for college. He says student loan payments total $60 billion a year. That can drag down the economy. Graduates are still paying for their education instead of:

Kantrowitz: Buying a car, buying a house, getting married, having children, saving for retirement.

Tianna Kennedy is 34 and has a masters degree from N.Y.U. She was hoping to become a professor but now she works as farmer and earns $8 an hour. She still has over $80,000 in debt.

Tianna Kennedy: In retrospect, I really wish I hadn't gone to get a master's because I'm doing wage labor work. I feel like I'm in bondage for the rest of my life.

In New York, I'm Sally Herships for Marketplace.

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.
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$80,000 in debt! A maters degree from NYU. In what? She didn't say. If I had a masters degree with that kind of price tag believe me I'd be singing it out. Do people have absolutely no concept of the cost of supporting one selves post parents and college loans. These stories of grossly overly indebted college students are getting so little sympathy from me.

Education stopped being education when schools became money making businesses. The costs to reward balance of graduate school just isn't worth the waste. Manufacturing a more highly educated slave class hasn't stopped them from being slaves to the dollar. Free yourselves, live life, seek opportunity, and quest for something more than a JOB. Try the library, it's free (relatively speaking).

As a graduate student that is debt, I am contributing to this mess. I am going for master's degrees in mathematics and engineering. When I am done, I will have several job openings available to me. I will get a job that pays enough to pay back my loans.

I wonder how much of this debt will not get paid back because the students got degrees that will not allow them to pay back the loans. I also wonder how many students got suckered into private student loans. How many of these students got into a program where there are 1000's of jobs but 10,000's of graduate each year? How many of these students were lied to, like me, about the job prospects post graduation. I got a bachelor's degree in physics and a minor in chemistry. I was told I could do anything with my degree. Truth is, I can't. The only jobs I get are based upon my chemistry background. I can't be an engineer because I did not graduate from an ABET accredited engineering program. My friends in engineering physics can't get jobs as engineers because they are not ABET accredited. For the same amount of time and money, I could have a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering with a minor in physics and be making a lot more money than I am now. I would be more employable with higher pay. If I did engineering sooner, I wouldn't have student loans right now.

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