NCES Data: Bachelor’s Degree Holders Feeling the Burden of Student Loan Debt

By Brittany Hackett, Communications Staff
Nearly three out of four bachelor’s degree recipients borrowed money to pay for their degree, and more than six out of 10 were still paying off their student loan debt four years after completing their degrees, according to new data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
The data shows that 72 percent of 2007-08 bachelor’s degree recipients had taken out either federal or private student loans to pay for their undergraduate education and subsequent degrees, borrowing an average of $45,800. While some borrowers had managed to pay off their student loan debt by 2012, about 63 percent of 2007-08 bachelor’s degree recipients still owed some money, with an average amount of $41,900 in principal and interest owed in 2012.
The amount of debt a student owed was dependent on whether he or she pursued an advanced degree after completing a bachelor’s degree. According to the data, about 56 percent of 2007-08 bachelor’s degree recipients stopped at that degree, with 66 percent borrowing an average of $29,600 for their undergraduate education. About 56 percent of these graduates had debt four years after graduation, to the tune of $24,200 on average in principal and interest in 2012. 
Meanwhile, 44 percent of 2007-08 bachelor’s degree recipients pursued advanced degrees, and 71 percent of them owed an average of $61,300, though the amount varies based on the degree they pursued. For example, 71 percent of master’s degree students owed money in 2012, with an average amount of $52,300 owed in principal and interest.
Eighty-eight percent of bachelor’s degree recipients who borrowed to finance either their undergraduate or graduate education owed money four years later, though NCES notes that the amount of outstanding debt varies based on 2012 employment status. Among borrowers who were employed and not enrolled in school, 86 percent held a balance on their student loans in 2012, with an average debt amount of $33,700. Meanwhile, 94 percent of borrowers who were unemployed in 2012 also had education debt, with an average amount of $52,200.
NCES also looked at how the 2007-08 cohort of bachelor’s degree recipients were faring during repayment, examining where they stood four years after graduation. Generally, among federal borrowers with only bachelor’s degrees, those who borrowed the most money also experienced higher rates of deferment because of economic difficulty, forbearance, delinquency, and default. 
Among the 2007-08 bachelor’s degree recipients who did not pursue additional degrees but still owed money on their student loans, 69 percent were repaying their federal or private student loans four years after graduation, while 17 percent had paid off their debt. Nine percent were not making payments but still owed on their loans, and 5 percent were in default. As of 2012, 24 percent of federal student loan borrowers who stopped at a bachelor’s degree had been delinquent on at least one federal student loan at least one time since graduation.


Publication Date: 4/26/2017

Peter G | 4/26/2017 3:54:03 PM

"While some borrowers had managed to pay off their student loan debt by 2012, about 63 percent of 2007-08 bachelor’s degree recipients still owed some money..."

The framing of this strikes me as odd. The standard repayment period is designed to be 10 years - this seems to be lamenting that ONLY 37% of this population paid it off in less than half the time, rather than being impressed that 37% actually paid it off that quickly.

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