This month, college-admission letters are being accompanied by national anxiety over the growing “student-debt crisis.” The cost of college has spiked 150 percent since 1995, compared with a 50 percent increase in the cost of other goods and services. Last year, outstanding student loans soared to nearly $1 trillion—a 300 percent jump since 2003. College is an undeniably risky investment, seemingly more so than ever. But are rising debt levels a national crisis?

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