For 29% of Students: Debt, But No Degree And they're the most likely to default By Kevin Spak, Newser Staff Posted May 29, 2012 10:13 AM CDT 17 comments Comments Lots of students are racking up debt with nothing to show for it. (Shutterstock) (Newser) – You think it's tough being a recent graduate with a mountain of student loan debt? Try being a dropout with a mountain of student loan debt. Nearly 30% of college students who took out loans in 2009 dropped out of school, up from 23% in 2001, according to a new study. That's alarming, because dropouts, for obvious reasons, face higher unemployment, make less money, and are among the most likely to default on their loans. The Washington Post sees the figures as an indictment of decades of public policy designed to increase access to higher education, but not to ensure students graduate or can afford it. "Access and success are not linking up," says Sallie Mae's COO. The numbers also look bad for for-profit schools, which saw dropout rates increase more than their public counterparts—and leave the average student with twice as much debt.