Some 19% of US households, or almost one in five, owed student debt or had deferred loans in 2010, a Pew study finds. That's a jump of four percentage points from 2007—and twice as many homes are feeling the burden compared to two decades ago, USA Today reports. In households whose head is under 35, the figure is 40%, a new record. And the lowest-income homes have been hit the hardest: Outstanding debt is equal to 24% of income in households earning less than $21,000.
In a small bright spot, average debt size shrank slightly from 2007 to 2010, from $105,297 to $100,720. Still, some homes saw educational debt rise. The report "reinforces the importance of Pell Grants and other aid that helps limit the need to borrow," says an advocate for access to college. Notes the report's author: "Given the fact that the job market has been especially weak for young adults, I think there's a conversation going on in a lot of American families with high school students about, 'Is college worth it?'"