Tell us a little about yourself!

Debt Repayment & Earnings

Not all families need loans for college. For those that do, here is what the monthly payments might look like over 10 years compared with the graduate's average earnings.

Tales of recent college graduates struggling with payments on six figures of student-loan debt make good news stories, but it’s not the experience of most students.  

The average student-loan debt of the class of 2010 was around $25,000, according to the most recent analysis by the Project on Student Debt. 

About two-thirds of graduates of public and private nonprofit colleges have loans. With more people taking out loans, and taking out bigger loans, overall debt to finance a college education is on the rise. The total amount of outstanding student-loan debt passed the $1-trillion mark in 2012. 

With unemployment of college graduates at historic highs, paying off that debt is also getting more difficult. The percentage of borrowers defaulting on their federal student loans within two years of beginning repayment is now 9.1 percent.

We know from various economic studies over the years that going to college is worth it both in terms of lifetime earnings and better employment prospects. But the question now for prospective students and their parents is whether taking on increasing amounts of debt to finance an education at a specific college is worth it.

Until recently, it was very difficult for families to answer that question. But increasingly families have access to data that allow them to see the payoff of a degree in a particular academic discipline from a specific college by looking at earnings after graduation. 

It’s important to remember as you look at such earnings data that they are just one measure of the value of a college degree. The benefits of higher education go beyond the paycheck. But if you’re taking on large amounts of debt to finance your education, you should know if you might earn enough after graduation to pay back that debt. 

Additional Resources

College Measures 

See earnings by college and major in four states: Arkansas, Colorado, Tennessee, and Virginia. 

Project on Student Debt

Facts and figures on average debt by state and institution, as well as resources on loans. 

Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

A research center that studies the link between education, career qualifications, and work-force demands.