Landscape of student loans changing, study says

By Max Blechman | The Duquesne Duke

A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that the demographic of students who took out loans to finance secondary education has changed considerably in the last 20 years.

The percentage of student borrowers increased from 34 percent in 1992-93 to 62 percent in 2011-12, but the most significant increase in student borrowers came not from low or middle-income households, but from high-income households.

The study, which defines high-income families as those in the top quartile of household incomes nationally, found that student borrowers from high-income homes more than doubled.

While in 1992-93 only 24 percent of high-income students took out loans to finance their education, by 2011-12 this number increased to 50 percent.

Upper-middle-income students were also affected by this trend, with student borrowing increasing from 34 percent to 62 percent amongst this demographic. Meanwhile, low-income students only experienced a 10 percent increase in student borrowing, a number significantly lower than the top two demographics.

This trend could be attributed to increasing tuition costs and a decrease in federal aid programs. These characteristics, which have historically mostly affected low and middle-income homes, are now spreading to affect students across the income spectrum.

John Falleroni, of the Duquesne financial aid office, said the University has experienced this trend as well.

“The results wouldn’t surprise me, let’s put it that way,” Falleroni said. “It’s a nationwide trend and we’re following those same trends … I can’t provide any statistics at this time but we have definitely noticed [more affluent students] taking out loans.”

This study is coming amidst discussions about the growing concerns over student debt and increased tuition costs nationally. The same Pew study also found that there was a 352 percent increase in money lent from 1992 to 2012, going from $24 billion to $110 billion.

Students are graduating with a larger amount of debt as well, the study found. Graduates in 2011-12 owed more than $26,000 upon graduation, while graduates 20 years earlier owed under $13,000.