Total student loan debt in the US has topped $1.3 trillion.
It’s not just an issue for people holding six figures’ worth of loans — it’s become a policy issue as well.
In September, the Obama administration announced a series of changes to the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the go-to form for prospective college students applying for federal student aid.
In December, the administration announced the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plan, which lets select federal student loan borrowers cap their monthly loan payments at 10% of their discretionary income.
These measures have been taken to make the burden of student loans more manageable. The Associated Press found that Generation X, people ages 35-50, owe about as much money on their loans as new graduates even after years of payments, and that student loan payments are surpassing groceries as the biggest monthly expense for many households.
Writing for TIME, leading student financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz estimates that more than 25% of borrowers are graduating with “excessive” debt. He explains that this debt load significantly influences how many borrowers live their lives.
I also found that students who graduate with excessive debt are about 10% more likely to say that it caused delays in major life events, such a buying a home, getting married, or having children. They are also about 20% more likely to say that their debt influenced their employment plans, causing them to take a job outside their field, to work more than they desired, or to work more than one job.
Things aren’t getting better. Marketwatch estimates that America’s total student loan debt grows over $2,000 every second. It’s no wonder the government has taken notice.
If that hasn’t given you a sense of urgency, watch the national balance increase on this student debt clock from FinAid.org: