Percentage of all full-time, full-year undergraduate students who received any student loans 1992 - 2008

Kevin Carey
Erin Dillon
Education Sector
July 8, 2009

"Higher education debt has reached unprecedented heights. Chart 1 shows the percentage of all full-time undergraduates who received student loans, broken down by the type of institution (public two-year, public four-year, private nonprofit four-year, and for-profit) in the five most recent academic years that the NPSAS was administered: 1992–93, 1995–96, 1999–2000, 2003–04, and 2007–08.

In 1993, overall, only 32 percent of undergraduates borrowed to attend college. Borrowing rates were lowest among students attending community colleges—unsurprising given that two-year public institutions are usually inexpensive. Roughly 32 percent of public four-year students borrowed, compared to 46 percent of students at private nonprofit institutions and 53 percent of those in for-profit colleges.

In every year since, nearly every one of those percentages has increased. As recently as the mid-1990s, borrowing was the exception. Now it’s the rule. While community college students have remained relatively debt-free—only 23 percent borrowed in 2008—this is still nearly twice the percentage who borrowed in 1993. Even public four-year universities that receive large cash subsidies to keep tuition low have edged above the 50 percent borrowing threshold. But by far the biggest increase in the percentage of students borrowing is in for-profit education, which grew from 53 percent of students borrowing in 1993 to 92 percent in 2008."

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Primary Document

Gillen’s testimony before the Senate includes information concerning which Americans receive Pell Grants and how much of a student’s tuition they generally cover. Gillen encourages the government to give more money to Pell Grants and less to student loans, believing that the latter only serve to drive up tuition costs and line the pockets of higher education administrators.

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In his testimony before the United States Congress, Richard Vedder contends that the proposals to increase Pell Grants and bring all student loans under the authority of the government could have serious unintended consequences for both the student and the country at large. Some of these consequences include hiked tuition costs and a rising national debt. Vedder warns that while these...

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  • "Invests the bill’s savings in making college affordable and helping more Americans graduate
  • Provides reliable, affordable, high-quality Federal student loans for all families
  • Prepares students...