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Student debt loads keep climbing

Student debt levels have been growing much faster in past several years compared to earlier in this century, and at the same time the number of students who are borrowing has jumped dramatically.

The average student borrower who graduated with a bachelor's degree in 2012 left school with $29,400 in debt, according to a financial aid survey the federal government conducts every four years. This debt load represents a 20 percent increase in real terms over just four years.

This amount of debt is higher than what 40 percent of working-age adults make in a year and represents nearly 80 percent of the average annual income for young adults (ages 25-34).

Researchers at the New America Foundation took a deeper look at the new and earlier quadrennial federal figures to see who has been borrowing for different credentials over the past decade. In its new analysis, The Student Debt Review, the New America Foundation documented that while debt was growing gradually across different types of institutions a decade ago, the borrowing began speeding up in the 2007-2008 school year.

Between the 2003-2004 and the 2011-2012 school years, the number of students graduating with debt jumped from 1.6 million to 2.4 million. Nearly 70 percent of bachelor's degree recipients today are taking out loans. College graduates who borrowed in the latter part of the time period are now paying roughly $79 a month more in college loan payments than those who took out student loans earlier. Later grads with bachelor's degrees face a typical monthly bill of $312 versus $233 a month eight years earlier.

Students were less likely to take on debt if they attended a public university. Sixty four percent of these students took out loans compared with 74 percent who graduated from private nonprofit colleges and 87 percent for those who graduated from for-profit colleges.

The average student debt of 2012 grads who attended public universities was $25,640 versus $32,308 for grads at private, nonprofit colleges and $40,038 for those who attended for-profit schools.

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