How much do students borrow?

The amounts individual students borrow to fund their education depend on their circumstances. The longer students stay in school, the more they are likely to borrow. So, 8 percent of 2011-12 associate degree recipients borrowed $30,000 or more. Among bachelor’s degree recipients, 29 percent borrowed this much. And more than three-quarters of graduate degree recipients borrowed this much.

Debt levels also vary across types of institutions. Students who enroll in for-profit institutions borrow more than similar students attending public and private nonprofit colleges and universities.

Family income also matters. Among 2011-12 bachelor’s degree recipients, about 40 percent of those from the top half of the family income distribution graduated without debt, compared with about 20 percent of those from the bottom half. Those from families in the top quarter of the income distribution were less likely than others to borrow $30,000 or more, but there was no significant difference across the rest of the income distribution in the share of graduates borrowing this much.

Explore more in Student Debt: Rhetoric and Realities of Higher Education Financing