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The numbers are staggering-and still on the rise

The numbers are staggering-and still on the rise

As noted above, a federal emergency relief measure suspended student loan repayments from , and the deadline has now been moved to . Collections on payments that are in default also were halted. This is a suspension of repayment, not a cancellation or even a reduction of the debt.

The Bottom Line

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Most students who attend college are hoping to earn a degree that will dramatically increase their earning power after graduation. Still, for many adults, much of those earnings will have to go toward paying back student loans. This is a heavy burden to carry, especially before someone has earned their first professional paycheck.

Nearly one-third of all American students now have to go into debt to get through college, and the average student loan debt reached a record high of $38,792 in 2020. Collectively, they owe about $1.58 trillion as of , according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

As any recent college student-or parent of a student-knows, obtaining a degree requires a much bigger financial sacrifice today than it did a generation or two ago. Over the past three decades, the average cost to attend a public four-year institution is more than three times the cost to attend a public four-year institution, and it more than doubled at both private and public four-year schools, according to the College Board.

For many Americans, footing the bill through savings and investments simply isn’t sustainable. The upshot is that more students and families are relying on loans to pursue higher education, and the average student loan debt keeps growing.