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Statistical Analysis Report:

Early Labor Force Experiences and Debt Burden

September 1997

(NCES 97-286) Ordering information


This report uses data from the Baccalaureate and Beyond (B&B) and Beginning Postsecon-dary Student (BPS) studies to examine the early labor force experiences of postsecondary educa-tion participants who graduated or left without a degree or certificate; their borrowing for postsecondary education; and, if they borrowed, their repayment status and the debt burden im-plied by their income and repayment obligations. The B&B data, collected in 1994, are used to examine the experiences of 1992–93 bachelor’s degree recipients approximately one year after they graduated. The BPS data are used to track the experiences of another group of recent labor market entrants: individuals who began their postsecondary education in 1989–90 and whose last enrollment ended by December 1992. This group is referred to below as the “noncompleters and associate’s degree or certificate recipients” or the “nonbaccalaureate group.”


  • The vast majority (87 percent) of 1992–93 bachelor’s degree recipients were employed in April 1994 (table 7). About three-quarters (76 percent) were working only, and 11 percent were combining work and further education. The rest were enrolled for further education and not employed (7 percent) or neither working nor enrolled (6 percent).
  • Eighty-one percent of the noncompleters and associate’s degree or certificate recipients were employed in April 1994 (table 9). The rest were unemployed or out of the labor force.
  • The average April 1994 annualized salary for the bachelor’s degree recipients was $22,100 ($24,200 for those working full time); the average 1993 earnings for the non-baccalaureate group were $16,600 (tables 13 and 14).
  • Some experience with unemployment during the first year after graduation was not un-common for bachelor’s degree recipients: 29 percent had been unemployed for at least one month (table 15). Their April 1994 unemployment rate was 4.5 percent.
  • Among the nonbaccalaureate group, about one-third had experienced some unemploy-ment, but their unemployment was measured over a longer time period than the bache-lor’s degree recipients (since 1989) (table 16). The unemployment rate for this group in April 1994 was 4.7 percent.

Borrowing for Undergraduate Education

  • About one-half (49 percent) of the 1992–93 bachelor’s degree recipients borrowed from some source (including family or friends as well as through student loan pro-grams) to finance their undergraduate education (table 18). Among those who bor-rowed, the average amount was $10,200. Graduates of private, not-for-profit institutions borrowed more, on average, than graduates of public institutions ($12,800 versus $8,700).
  • Overall, 43 percent of the noncompleters and associate’s degree or certificate recipients borrowed from some source for their postsecondary education, and 25 percent bor-rowed through student loan programs (table 19). The average amount borrowed through student loan programs was $4,200. For students who last attended a public 2- year institution, the borrowing rate through student loan programs was 10 percent and the average amount borrowed was $2,700.
  • Bachelor’s degree recipients’ immediate career plans appear unrelated to borrowing, but borrowing may be an obstacle to immediate enrollment in graduate school (tables 22–28).

Loan Repayment and Debt Burden

  • About one year after graduating, 63 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients had no un-dergraduate debt, either because they had never borrowed or because they had repaid their loans; 29 percent were required to make loan payments; and the remaining 8 per-cent still owed money but were not required to make payments in 1994 (table 29).
  • Among the noncompleters and associate’s degree or certificate recipients, 16 percent were making payments (table 30).
  • For 1992–93 bachelor’s degree recipients who were repaying their loans in 1994, the average monthly payment was $136, which averaged 9 percent of their April 1994 sal-ary (tables 31 and 33). Thirty-one percent of those in repayment were paying less than 5 percent of their monthly income; 38 percent were paying 5 to 9 percent; 15 percent were paying 10 to 14 percent; and 16 percent were paying 15 percent or more (table 33). Those with the lowest salaries (less than $15,000) had the greatest average debt burden (15 percent).
  • Bachelor’s degree recipients whose debt burden exceeded 15 percent were more likely than those with debt burdens of under 5 percent to be living with parents or relatives (table 38).
  • The nonbaccalaureate group were less burdened with debt. Their monthly payments av-eraged $76, and three-quarters had monthly payments amounting to less than 10 per-cent of their monthly income (tables 32 and 34). The average was 8 percent.
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National Center for Education Statistics -
U.S. Department of Education