The surprising role of high-income families in student debt trends: Examining undergraduate borrowing by income, 199596 to 201516

The surprising role of high-income families in student debt trends: Examining undergraduate borrowing by income, 199596 to 201516

Jason D. Delisle

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  • Some of the biggest and most consistent changes in student borrowing patterns over the past two ong students from higher-income families.
  • In the 201516 academic year, students from higher-income families were just as likely to take on debt for an initial year of an undergraduate education as were students from low-income families.
  • Undergraduates from higher-income families take on the largest debts, while those from the lowest-income families take on the smallest debts.
  • The share of low-income students earning bachelor’s degrees https://getbadcreditloan.com/payday-loans-tx/mineola/ with debt has been remarkably consistent (75 percent) for 20 years, while the share of high-income students borrowing has doubled to 60 percent.

Observers from across the ideological spectrum argue that the US is in the midst of a student debt crisis. This view is largely motivated by the fact that student debt now totals $1.5 trillion after rising rapidly in the past decade, particularly during the last economic recession. 1 In 2003, outstanding debt was just $311 billion after adjusting for inflation. 2

These trends have prompted several Democratic presidential candidates to propose that the federal government forgive most or all outstanding student debt (the vast majority of which was issued through federal programs). 3 They argue that the debt is unaffordable for many and is the result of severe inequities in our higher education system. Concern about inequitable student debt extends beyond public policy. A growing number of private employers now repay a share of their employees’ student loans in part out of concern that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are the ones most likely burdened by debt. 4

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