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Fresh Out of College, and Already in Debt

I'm Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Education Report.

A college education can be very costly in the United States, especially at a private school. Rising costs have led more and more families to borrow money to help pay for college.

There are different federal loans and private loans for students and parents. Interest rates on some of these loans will go up on July first. As borrowing has increased, there are growing concerns that many students graduate with too much debt.

In nineteen ninety-three, less than one-half of graduates from four-year colleges had student loans. Now two-thirds of them do. Their average loan debt when they graduate is nineteen thousand dollars.

At public universities, the average is seventeen thousand dollars.

The Project on Student Debt is an action group that collects these numbers from reports. It notes that averages do not present the full picture.

For example, in two thousand four, one-fourth of students with loans graduated more than twenty-five thousand dollars in debt. And that did not include borrowing by their parents. The Project on Student Debt says parents as well as students are borrowing more to pay for college.

Students can expect to take about ten years to pay back their loans. Repayment does not begin until after they are out of school.

Higher borrowing limits have also helped push up student debts. Students from all economic levels are borrowing more. Corrected for inflation, student loans have increased around sixty percent in ten years.

Researchers say one effect is that the higher the debts, the more likely graduates are to look only for high paying jobs. That means there is less chance they will take jobs in areas like teaching or other public service.

A study done in two thousand two for a major student lender found that debts can also affect lives in other ways. Some students paying back their college loans said they delayed buying their first house. Some delayed marriage or having children.

In May, groups representing students, parents and college officials asked the government to change some of its loan repayment rules. The requested changes would recognize graduates who have difficulty repaying their loans because they do not earn very much. They would be able to pay less right after they graduate, then pay more as their earnings increase.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. Read and listen to our reports at I’m Steve Ember.