PEDAR: Executive Summary Debt Burden Four Years Later
Borrowing for Education
Debt Status in 1997
Debt Burden
Research Methodology
Full Report (PDF)
Executive Summary (PDF)
Borrowing for Education

One-half of all 1992–93 bachelor’s degree recipients borrowed to help pay for their undergraduate education. Those who took out loans borrowed an average of $10,100. By 1997, 29 percent of all bachelor’s degree recipients had enrolled in a graduate degree or first-professional degree program. One-half of them (14 percent) had borrowed to help pay for their graduate education, and the other half had not.

The amount borrowed for education varied with graduates’ postbaccalaureate experience. For those with no further enrollment after the bachelor’s degree, 51 percent had borrowed for undergraduate education; the average amount borrowed was $10,500. Among undergraduate borrowers who had completed a master’s degree by 1997, 69 percent had borrowed to help pay for their education at one or both levels, and the average total amount borrowed (including both levels) was $20,800. Among undergraduate borrowers who had completed a first-professional degree by 1997, 9 out of 10 had borrowed, with an average of $63,400 borrowed in total.

Undergraduate borrowing appears to have a minor discouraging effect on further enrollment in the short term. Undergraduates who borrowed $5,000 or more were slightly less likely than nonborrowers to have enrolled for further education by 1994 (16 percent versus 20 percent) (Choy and Geis 1997). This effect persisted even after controlling for sex, race/ethnicity, age when they received their degree, type of institution from which they graduated, undergraduate major, and grade point average. However, the early negative impact of borrowing had disappeared by 1997, when (controlling for the same factors) there was no statistically significant relationship between undergraduate borrowing and enrolling in either a graduate degree program or any other postsecondary program.

next section