Roughly one in four student loan borrowers attended graduate school, according to a new report, and these students account for nearly fifty percent of all outstanding student debt.
The Brookings Institution estimated that the rest of the outstanding student debt is consumed by student loan borrowers who took out loans to go to two- or four-year institutions.
It is common for student loan experts to argue that graduate students tend to take on more loans because they anticipate a higher salary. Workers with professional degrees, such as in law or medicine, earn $1,893 per week on average, and those with a master’s degree earn $1,545 per week on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The bureau estimated that those with a bachelor’s degree earn $1,305 per week on average, while workers with a high school degree make closer to $781 on average weekly.
Most undergraduates complete college with little student loan debt, as nearly thirty percent graduate with no debt and about twenty-five percent graduate with less than $20,000. Although Americans collectively owe over $1.7 trillion in student loan debt, a figure that’s increased by more than one hundred percent in the last decade, only six percent of borrowers owe more than $100,000, Brookings reported.
“Many of those big numbers end up being outliers or they’re grad students who have accumulated [debt] based on continuing their education,” Rick Castellano, vice president of corporate communications for Sallie Mae, told CNBC, adding that undergraduate students rarely borrow more than $100,000 in loans.
The report comes after the Education Department has already canceled over $3 billion in student loan debt since the beginning of 2021, upholding a portion of President Joe Biden’s campaign pledge to lessen the student loan burden on Americans.
The department’s latest forgiveness measure impacted more than 1,800 applications for student loan debt cancellation who attended three different institutions. The borrowers will receive one hundred percent loan discharges, amounting to nearly $55.6 million in student debt relief.
“Today’s announcement continues the U.S. Department of Education’s commitment to standing up for students whose colleges took advantage of them,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement when the department made the announcement. “The Department will continue doing its part to review and approve borrower defense claims quickly and fairly so that borrowers receive the relief that they need and deserve. We also hope these approvals serve as a warning to any institution engaging in similar conduct that this type of misrepresentation is unacceptable.”
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.