College students in 2008 carried an average of $3,173 in credit card debt, a huge jump from 4 years earlier, USA Today reports. A Sallie Mae study, when conducted in 2004, revealed an average balance of just $2,169. When students “can’t get private loans, they turn to credit cards,” one expert said. And the lender thinks the recession means students will only turn more to plastic.
The increase in student debt coincides with rapidly climbing tuition; in the past 10 years, fees at public colleges have gone up 50%. Seniors claim the lion’s share of the debt, with an average balance of $4,138, but freshman are also in deep, with $2,038. Most of the average balance—$2,200—is going toward educational expenses.