Paying for College

The Student Loan Debt Clock and Why You Should Care

September 22, 2011

You’ve probably seen the national debt clock before, but now we have the Student Loan Debt Clock.

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As of June, 2010, the total amount of outstanding student loan debt was greater than the amount of outstanding credit card debt.

And according to FinAid.org, student loan debt is increasing by approximately $2853 per second.

The sobering thing about these numbers is that student loans aren’t like other kinds of debt. I realized that once I saw this infographic from the folks at CollegeScholarships.org.

Take a moment to check it out:

Student Loans Scheme.

Infographic by College Scholarships.org

I like the suggestions on the yellow sticky notes at the bottom of this infographic. We’re doing our best to put our kids through college without borrowing, but we still have a long way to go.

And debt like this has big implications — not only for students who may not fully understand what they’re taking on — but for our economy as well.

Will the housing market be able to recover when this generation of students has borrowed so heavily to finance rising tuitions?

And how will this debt burden affect their ability to help put their own kids through college? To retire?

  1. The finaid.org site is a great resource for college students. It’s amazing the amount of data on there.

    I definitely wouldn’t want to be a student these days. I thought the tuition 20 years ago was astronomical relative to people from 10 years before me, but it’s only gotten worse since then.

    1. Yes, tuition prices have risen much higher than inflation. I so wish I had saved some paperwork from 25 years ago, when I was a student at the same college my daughter’s at today.

  2. I think it’s very sad that student loan debt has become the “norm” — so much so that many people just assume they’ll have to borrow money to go to school. As the infographic points out, there are many ways to go to school without taking out student loans. And I do think they put a huge burden on people.

    1. Jackie, I think your point about it being the “norm” is spot on. We have been sold the “student loans are good debt” theory just like we were sold the “mortgages are good debt” theory. We all saw how that one worked out.

  3. It’s shocking to think that even my younger siblings paid almost DOUBLE what I paid to attend the same school I went to, let alone what the fees will be by the time my (future) children attend college.

    I also wrote an entire post about debt labeling, and I tend to agree that while student loans can be an avenue towards good career opportunities, no debt will ever be “good” in my mind.

    1. HH, I agree and at least part of the problem is that the more loans become available –> the more people can go to college –> the more college costs rise –> the more loans are needed. It seems to be a vicious circle.

  4. Great article. I love the infographic you posted. It’s short, to the point, and provides very valuable information.

    I’ve found that parents and students these days to not do their homework on paying for college as they do looking for the “best” college for their child to attend. I work in our local HS providing students with college and scholarship information. And have seen that at the point the child reaches senior year, the parents who hovered over the child in sports, drama, music and other school activities – drop off and leave their child to sort through all this information by themselves. Sad. I know not all parents are like that. But it is becoming more the norm. Students need to know that college searches and scholarship search go hand in hand – don’t wait till you decide on a college to then look into how to pay for it – but that is one guidance that is not stressed enough in school.
    Knowledge is key to going to the next level in education – but we need to stress that it should not be the norm to just start with loans. I’ve had so many students come in and say – OH I’m just going to the community college – I don’t need scholarships. The loans will be small. I say – HEY what can it hurt to fill out some applications – the worst they can say is NO. BUT on the other hand you could be awarded enough to not have to take out student loans.

    Applying for college and scholarships is a 3 person job. The student has their part – the parent’s theirs and you always should have a person who checks to make sure all documents are attached, to read over the essays, and that it gets mailed out with enough time.

    I’m on my second child going to college and one in grad school. My first daughter graduated with one student loan of $5,000. While her friends are paying off $60,000. She know can afford to attend Grad school.
    My second daughter is a sophomore in college and her bill this year is a negative number.
    You learn as you go – and then share what you’ve learned with others.
    Glad I stumbled upon your site. Always eager to learn more.

  5. Very sobering post. I still have two more to put through school, AND they are only 1 year apart. This will take some finesse, for sure, but there is no way I’ll have them borrow themselves into oblivion. Let’s hope there are some changes in the next few years.

    In state schools seem to be the best bet, but there are many scholarships to be had outside of the state. We are hoping to save like crazy once our emergency account is in place, and we are contributing fully to our 401K. If the kids have to go locally for the first year or so, so be it.

    1. Sharon, you make such a good point about not paying for your kids’ college at the expense of your other financial goals, like an emergency fund and retirement. It’s no good to our kids if we pay for their college and then can’t fund our own retirements, huh?

      Sounds like you guys have a great handle on things.

  6. An excellent post… depending on the “earning potential” of a given field of study, I think they should regulate the amount of debt that a student can get into. Of course, such thinking requires gov’t regulation and we all know how good they are with their own debt these days.

    1. True, Doctor. Ultimately, I think it has to be up to the borrower to “regulate” their own debt (personal responsibility and all that). But I’m hopeful that more people/organizations (like the makers of this infographic) will call people’s attention to it. We have to wake up!

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