Weighing in at more than $1 trillion, student loan debt is now larger than total credit card debt. Morning Edition recently asked young adults about their biggest concerns, and more than two-thirds of respondents mentioned college debt. Many say they have put off marriage or buying a home because of the financial burden they took on as students.
Around the country, millions of parents of prospective college freshmen are puzzling over one big question: How will we pay for college?
The first step for many families is reviewing the financial aid award letters they receive from each school. But often those letters can be confusing. Some are filled with acronyms and abbreviations, others lump scholarships and loans together. And because they're often very different, they're also difficult to compare.
Advanced sciences like astronomy require years of study and graduate degrees. And the soaring cost of college can be a heavy obstacle for low-income and minority students hoping to break into those fields.
A program at the City University of New York hopes to lift that burden by providing scholarships and one-on-one mentoring to underrepresented students.
In the past 20 years, the average burden for a four-year college graduate in the U.S. has gone from about $9,000 to nearly $30,000 today. The percentage of students carrying debt has shot up from less than half to nearly 70 percent these days.
At a large public high school in Freemont, Calif., southeast of San Francisco, Alyssa Tucker and Thao Le sit on a metal table. Both come from families with modest incomes.