We've Overlooked a Major Student-Debt Problem

We fret about undergrads, but grad students are deeply in debt
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 10, 2014 9:07 AM CST
We've Overlooked a Major Student-Debt Problem
In this June 17, 2013, file photo, University of Oregon graduates make their way through campus during pre-graduation ceremonies in Eugene, Ore., on June 17, 2013.   (AP Photo/The Register-Guard, Brian Davies, file)

Undergrads, don't worry too much about the loans you'll be saddled with after college—there's a group that might need to worry even more. Even though the National Center for Education Statistics shows that grad students accounted for just 14% of university enrollees in 2012, the New America Foundation finds that this group is responsible for about 40% of currently owed student debt. "People focus on the undergraduates, because there are more of them and they're younger and more naive," a University of Delaware professor tells Time. But grad students don't rely on their parents to pay for school as much as undergrads do, and their borrowing limits are often higher, leading to an ever-increasing cycle of owed money. In fact, they borrow three times more per year than undergrads on average.

This leads to other issues, such as graduate programs increasing tuition (they figure students can just take out more loans to keep up). The government hasn't been much of an advocate for the grad student, having halted subsidies on interest racked up on federal student loans while grad students are in school and for a short period after graduation, notes Time. Although spending on a four-year college degree brings in a 15% return, according to the Hamilton Project via the Washington Post, some graduate students aren't sure anything beyond that is worth it. "In the back of my mind I was always thinking, this money is an investment," one doctoral student who has built up $200,000 in debt tells Time. "But now I don't think I'm going to get the return I thought I would." (More student debt stories.)

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