America’s $1 Trillion+ Student Debt Problem

The stagnant state of the U.S. economy has made it challenging for many recent college graduates to enter the workforce.

students fighting student debt
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The stagnant state of the U.S. economy has made it challenging for many recent college graduates to enter the workforce and get established. And the added burden of taking on student loan debt to pay for the rising cost of college makes things worse. It’s no secret that student debt in America has become a major problem. But, the extent to which it will have a long-term impact on our economy might be greater than most people expect. Many college grads are entering into their careers with a negative net wroth (NOT zero, but negative) in the tens of thousands of dollars. This makes it even more difficult to get ahead in society.

The true impact of student debt goes far beyond the staggering total amount that needs to be repaid.  In reality, this is only the beginning of the problem that triggers many other economic issues. So, here’s a glance at some key student debt facts and the larger impact on the U.S. economy.


  • Nearly 20 million Americans attend college each year, and 60% (12M) borrow money annually to help cover educational costs.
  • The total amount of outstanding student loan debt in America has almost quadrupled in the past decade ($240 billion in 2003 and now $1 trillion+ in 2013).
  • Roughly 90% of the $1 trillion+ student loan debt is from government-backed loans, while the other 10% comes from private loans.
  • 37 million people in the U.S. have student debt obligations and 14% (about 5.4M) have at least one delinquent (past due) student loan account.
  • More than 40% of 25-year-olds hold student debt
  • Total student debt currently exceeds auto and credit card debts.
  • 70% of the class of 2013 is graduating with debt and carries an average debt load of $30,000.
  • Low-income families are less likely to have a plan for paying for college and as a result, take on a larger debt burdens with less income to pay it back.
  • The cost of college is higher than ever before, and continues to rise.
  • More students are attending college and taking on greater debt to cover costs.

Taking on student loan debt not only affects the individual borrower, but it also puts a strain on the national economy that disrupts growth. When people have to make student loan payments, they have less disposable income to spend. As a result, they are less likely to purchase other expensive assets, goods or services. Having student debt can also have a negative impact on an individual’s ability to take on other consumer debts (mortgage, car loan, etc.) to finance big-ticket purchases. Less consumer spending is usually bad for the economy and GDP growth.

Some economists are predicting that the Millennial Generation of young workers might become more cautious than past generations. And will make more calculated career and financial decisions because of their debt burden. For example, this could result in choosing to rent apartments more often than buying homes to reduce monthly living expenses.

Entrepreneurial opportunities are likely to take a hit from college debt as well, especially for recent grads who desire to create their own businesses. Forming a startup is a challenging endeavour for anyone, but even more so with looming student debt obligations that increase risk. Also, this can hinder new business expansion and the ability for startups to get funding and loans, which may limit bringing onboard new hires and creating jobs.

On the bright side, earning a college degree will eventually payoff with higher lifetime earnings and better career options, even if you have to take out some loans to pay for school.

Do you currently have student debt? How are you managing it? Share your story with us!



NYT – Student Debt Slows Growth as Young Spend Less

American Student Assistance – Student Loan Debt Statistics

Bloomberg – $1 Trillion Debt Crushes Business Dreams of U.S. Students

IVN – Progress Report: 7 Facts About Student Loan Debt You Did Not Know

Mother Jones – The Student Loan Debt Crisis in 9 Charts