And it's especially driven by graduate students.
Advanced-degree seekers make up only around 15 percent of all students in higher ed. But they were responsible for a whopping 32 percent of all federal borrowing in 2012-2013, according to a recent report from the Department of Education that breaks out grad students from other borrowers for the first time.
That's cause for both relief and concern. On the one hand, the less debt undergraduates are piling on, the better, since they're the most likely to have trouble paying back their loans. On the other, there's no reason to celebrate the ridiculous cost of grad school. And beyond that, there's a good chance the government will end up having to write off a large chunk of these debts. Today, former students who enroll in an income based repayment program can have their loans forgiven after twenty years. The idea was designed as a safety valve for undergrads who leave school with high debts and low salaries. But, judging from the limited information we have available, it's likely attracting graduate students instead. And, let's be real, our student loan protections weren't really meant to be a windfall for JDs, or, for that matter, graduate schools themselves.
A quick hat tip/clarification: New America's Clare McCann noticed this story when the Department of Education's numbers were first released last month. If you look at both our posts, you'll notice the numbers are different. That's because of the government's recent revisions.