Poll: Students fault colleges for burdening them with enormous loan debt

Katie McHugh Associate Editor
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Most four-year college students blame colleges and universities themselves for soaring levels of student loan debt, a new national poll finds.

Forty-two percent hold the institutions themselves responsible for student loan debt, while 30 percent blame the federal government. Only 21 percent blamed students, state governments or other factors for the massive $1.2 trillion total.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents believe the student debt burden is a major problem. Student loans comprise six percent of the total national debt, which recently reached $16.7 trillion.

Young Americans leaving four-year institutions with an average of $29,400 in debt enter an economy in which over 9 million Americans have given up looking for work and another 11 million are desperately trying to find full time employment have good reason to worry. Ten percent of students defaulted on their loans two years after graduation in 2011, and 14.7 percent defaulted within three years in 2010, according to a Department of Education study released in October.

Monthly loan payments can total more than a mortgage payment and channel money away from credit card debt, retirement accounts and emergency savings funds. (RELATED: As college costs increase, alternatives arise)

Meanwhile, tuition rose on average $1,700 at four-year public schools and $3,900 at four-year private colleges since 2008 — but nearly half of all U.S. colleges and universities cannot convince enough 18-year-olds to take out tens of thousands of dollars in easy loans to allow them to keep place with inflation, according to The Wall Street Journal.

College enrollment rates also took a hit as prospects of employment dimmed after the recession and household incomes fell and family contributions to college tuition declined along with them.

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