College & Workforce Readiness

Middle Income Students Incur Highest Student-Loan Debt

By Caralee J. Adams — August 20, 2012 1 min read
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Call it the “middle-income squeeze.”

That’s how one researcher is referring to students from middle-class families who are getting mired in more college debt than their peers from low- and high-income families.

Often, they make too much to qualify for aid, but fall short of enough cash to cover the increasing cost of college.

Students from families earning $40,000-$59,000 annually are graduating with $6,000 more debt than students whose families make less than $40,000, according to a paper scheduled to be presented today by Jason Houle at the American Sociological Association in Denver.

Those whose families make between $60,000 and $99,000 racked up nearly $4,000 more in student loans than their low-income peers. Middle-income students borrowed $12,000 more than those from families making $100,000-$149,000 and $17,000 more than the most-affluent students from households earning $150,000 or more.

Other subgroups that are more likely to go into deeper debt: Young adults whose parents had less than a college degree; African-American students; and those with single parents or stepparents.

Nearly 41 percent of all students left college with some debt, on average $22,000, Houle found. (This is similar the figure of $25,250 that the Project on Student Debt cites in its latest research.)

To arrive at his findings, “Disparities in Debt: Parents’ Socioeconomic Resources and Young Adult Student Loan Debt,” Houle, a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, analyzed data from 4,414 students from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth from 1997-2009.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.