Some two-thirds of students borrow for college today, and they’re borrowing more than ever: For the 2008-2009 school year, the federal government loaned students $75.1 billion—25% more than the year before. That’s the biggest increase on record, the Wall Street Journal reports. The trend has troubling implications for grads, as many see their life choices pinched by the cost of their diplomas. (Average debt load: $23,186).
“Loans have gone from being the exception to being the norm for most students,” says an expert. That may mean big challenges down the road, like putting off buying a house or getting married. “I find myself living paycheck to paycheck,” says a law-school grad who has $175,000 in loans. And greater borrowing can keep tuition rising in a vicious cycle, the Journal notes: Loans provide a false sense of what students can pay.