Student debt looms large for a generation

A college education used to be a ticket to a secure future.
Now, a generation of students and graduates is walking off campus with a collective $1 trillion in student loan debt and troubling career prospects. The daunting combination is forcing them to rethink their futures, postponing weddings, home purchases and vacations to make hefty monthly payments on loans that will follow them into middle age.
It’s a financial and emotional strain their parents didn’t have, or at least not to the same degree. Just two decades ago, fewer than half of undergraduates finished school with debt, and the average was less than $10,000. This spring, two-thirds of graduates are expected to have debt, owing an average of $29,000. In fact, student loan debt now exceeds the country’s credit card debt.
Addressing the outcry heard everywhere from Occupy Wall Street protests to kitchen tables in the Chicago area, President Barack Obama last week sped up plans to help graduates dig out. Some borrowers will be able to lower their maximum required payments starting next year, with balances forgiven after 20 years. Borrowers will also have the chance to consolidate loans at a lower interest rate.


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