College Graduates In 2008 Borrowed 50 Percent More Than Graduates In 1996

At the same time that America’s educational attainment has been falling, the cost of higher education has been consistently rising. College costs are up 23 percent since 2000, and according to a new report from the Pew Research Center, 2008 graduates borrowed 50 percent more to finance their college educations than did graduates in 1996:

Graduates who received a bachelor’s degree in 2008 borrowed 50% more (in inflation-adjusted dollars) than their counterparts who graduated in 1996, while graduates who earned an associate’s degree or undergraduate certificate in 2008 borrowed more than twice what their counterparts in 1996 had borrowed, according to a new analysis of National Center for Education Statistics data by the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project.

And for those who prefer their data in graph form:

Once you filter out the students that didn’t borrow any money, the average loan amount of borrowing for a bachelor’s degree was about $23,000.


But even those numbers don’t tell the whole story. A growing number of students are going to for-profit colleges — which have been accused of “recruiting students with inflated promises, fudging financial-aid applications and leaving graduates with crushing debt and bleak job prospects” — and the borrowing at those institutions is astronomical.

According to Pew, “one-quarter (24%) of 2008 bachelor’s degree graduates at for-profit schools borrowed more than $40,000, compared with 5% of graduates at public institutions and 14% at not-for-profit schools.” The Obama administration has been trying to craft new rules to govern the for-profit college industry, but Congressional Republicans have been standing in their way.

As former President Bill Clinton said, “higher education institutions are pricing themselves into America’s decline.” The country is already on pace to be short 16 million college education workers by 2025, and the constantly spiraling amount of debt that students have to incur to get a degree is going to make it that much harder to catch up.