Pew Words About Student Debt

Nearly one in five American households maintains student loan debt, up from 15% in 2007 and 10% in 1989, according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center.

The report also states that rates of student loan debt increased in every demographic group and economic category, and is particularly acute in the bottom and top fifth of income earners.

Heightened national awareness of the increase in student loan debt is aggravated by the decrease in reported household incomes since 2007. The Pew Center’s analysis of Survey of Consumer Finance data, a triennial survey of American household financial characteristics, indicates that mean annual household incomes fell from $91,275 in 2007 to $80,805 in 2010—an 11% dip.

Though the middle fifth to top fifth of income earners had the highest amounts of student loan debt, they were also more likely to have the resources to meet their debt obligations. In the lowest fifth of the income spectrum, student loans presented the greatest debt burden, constituting 24% of household income, up from 15% in 2007.

Age is also an important indicator. Households headed by those under age 45 owed 70% of the total outstanding student loan debt, which includes education loans currently in deferment or those in scheduled repayment plans.

A different report—Student Debt and the Class of 2010, published by the Project on Student Debt at the Institute for College Access and Success—found that students in New England were dealing with some of the nation’s highest rates of loan debt due to the region’s relatively high tuition prices and financial aid packages that fall short of meeting a student’s full need. Looking at the average debt of graduated college seniors from four-year institutions, New Hampshire ranked first nationally; Maine, second; Vermont, sixth; and Rhode Island, ninth.



% of students carrying student loan debt

Average debt per student










New Hampshire



Rhode Island






Source: Data provided by Project on Student Debt at the Institute for College Access and Success.

Ashley Perzyna is a policy research intern at NEBHE.


Related Posts:

Time to Turn Attention to a Different Debt Limit: Downsize Federal Student Loan Programs


The New Indentured Educated Class


Average Student Loan Debt Grows by 6%; NE Hit Especially Hard


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