Student loan debt has increased exponentially in recent years, surpassing credit card debt for the first time in U.S. history. As more students are going to college and a higher percentage need to borrow money to pay tuition and related costs, the collective debt is likely to continue growing.
According to an article in The New York Times, studies show that by 2008, two-thirds of undergraduates graduated with some kind of debt. In 1993, the percentage was less than 50. The average debt last year was $24,000 and is likely to increase as default rates continue to rise.
"Our kids are leaving Geneseo with about $20,000 of debt," said Archie Cureton, director of financial aid. "Every year [debt] goes up a little; they're moderate increases."
As loan limits increase, students are borrowing more, Cureton said. The only way to get around the increasing student debt is for parents to take more of the responsibility. The opposite, however, seems to be happening more often. Loans in the name of the parent typically require that the parent begin making payments while the student is enrolled in school, and many are choosing alternative options.
Private or alternative loans, which are taken under the student's name with a parent's co-signature, are deferred until the student graduates. According to Cureton, these private loans have become an increasing trend that ultimately leaves students with more debt.
The effects of student debt are widespread. According to the Times article, economists worry that stories of unemployed graduates with mountains of debt might discourage prospective students from attending college.
For graduates, debt sometimes means a delay in the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Graduates are more likely to move back home after school and often taking longer to become financially independent. With unemployment rates so high, debt has become all the more intimidating.
Though the problem is growing, some Geneseo students are able to leverage the relatively low tuition of the State University of New York system combined with part-time work and scholarships to avoid excessive debt accumulation.
"I have a fair amount [of debt]. It's there looming ahead, but it's not consuming my thoughts," senior Ashley Tinney said. "I'm a [resident assistant], so it shouldn't be too bad."
"Geneseo is a great value," senior Laura Eble said. "I won't be in as much debt as I would have been with a private school, so I'm not too worried."