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PEDAR: Executive Summary  Debt Burden - A Comparison of 1992–93 and 1999–2000 Bachelor’s Degree Recipients a Year After Graduating
Undergraduate Borrowing
Loan Repayment
Debt Burden
Research Methodology
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 Undergraduate Borrowing

The percentage of bachelor’s degree recipients who had borrowed from any source to finance their undergraduate education increased from 49 percent in 1992–93 to 65 percent in 1999–2000 (tables A and 2). Among borrowers, the average amount borrowed increased from $12,100 (in constant 1999 dollars) to $19,300.

The increase in the percentage who borrowed occurred for males and females and each racial/ethnic1 and age group. It also occurred for all categories of enrollment characteristics such as where they first enrolled, where they earned their degree, how long they took to earn their degree, and undergraduate major. Finally, the increase occurred for graduates who had been either dependent or independent and at all family income levels for dependent students. Among graduates who were dependent students, the percentage who borrowed increased from 67 to 72 percent for those in the lowest family income group and roughly doubled (from 24 to 46 percent) for those in the highest income group (figure A).

The increase in the average cumulative amount borrowed occurred at all types of institutions, at each income level, and across all other student and institutional characteristics just mentioned.2 The percentage of graduates who had borrowed $25,000 or more for their undergraduate education increased from 7 percent in 1992–93 to 26 percent in 1999–2000 (table 3).

Debt did not seem to discourage graduates from enrolling in graduate or first-professional education in any major way. In fact, despite their higher debt, 1999–2000 graduates were more likely than their 1992–93 counterparts to have enrolled in a graduate or first-professional program a year later (21 vs. 16 percent) (table 5). Among 1999–2000 graduates who had not enrolled by 2001 but were expecting to attend graduate school later, 5 percent cited undergraduate debt as the primary reason for postponing their enrollment (table 6). Debt also did not appear to discourage the later cohort from entering teaching: despite their greater average debt, they were slightly more likely than the earlier cohort to have taught within a year of graduating (12 vs. 10 percent) (table 7). Nor did higher debt appear to force graduates to take jobs unrelated to their career goals: about 29 percent reported taking such jobs, with no detectable increase related to the amount borrowed (table 8).


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