Students > Trashing Education

The Student Loan Debt Crisis in 9 Charts

By Maggie Severns

Wed Jun. 5, 2013 2:27 AM PDT


Nearly $1 trillion in debt, millions in unpaid loans: the numbers behind how Americans are struggling to pay for college.

Update (6/29/2013): Congress didn't even come close to agreeing on new student loan rates, so interest rates doubled July 1 for students taking out one common federal loan. After the July 4 recess and before most students take out new loans for college in August, Congress will have a window to fix the loan rate. Senate Democrats are now pushing for a temporary fix, a one-year extension of the low 3.4 percent interest rate that would give Congress time to hammer out a long-term solution. According to the Hill, they have scheduled a vote on the proposal for July 10, though others (including House Republicans and even some fellow Democrats in the Senate) may not be on board.

Got student loans? You are far from alone: More than 38 million Americans have outstanding student loan debt totaling nearly $1 trillion, and those numbers are rising fast. This month, Congress will consider proposals to keep the interest rates on direct federal student loans down. (If it doesn't act by July 1, the rate for one kind of loan will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.) Regardless of what lawmakers do, many students and graduates will still have to take on large amounts of debt to pay for college.

Below are nine charts that help illustrate that the student loan crisis isn't just about interest rates but about how the cost of college has spiraled beyond the reach of many families and is leaving millions of students and grads with debts that are keeping them from realizing their financial goals.

The amount of total student loan debt has soared in the past decade, shooting up from $240 billion at the start of 2003 to nearly $1 trillion today.

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