Grad School Debt Surges Amid Lax Lending Laws
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Grad School Debt Surges Amid Lax Lending Laws

iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times

The higher the degree, the bigger the debt burden. And it’s not just in fields like medicine and law.

The median loan burden for graduate students in the U.S. jumped almost 50 percent from 2004 through 2012, according to a study released today by New America, a Washington-based public policy institute. Indebtedness rose from $40,209 to $57,600 during that period, when accounting for inflation and existing undergraduate debt.

Most of that surge was in 2008 through 2012, suggesting more students sought refuge in academia while waiting for the Great Recession to subside. For many of those graduates, earnings with their advanced degree did not help them quickly chip away at that debt, unless they received an M.B.A.

Related: The Surprising Reason College Grads Can’t Get a Job

Business grads, who are often able to pay off their loans faster, saw their debt load increase at the slowest rate compared with those receiving degrees such as a Master of Arts, Master of Education, Master of Science and Juris Doctor. Debt for M.B.A.s increased from $41,373 to $42,000 while M.A.s jumped from $37,965 to $58,539.

“The recent spike in debt for graduate degrees should also focus policymakers’ attention on the lack of loan limits for students pursuing graduate degrees,” the report said. “Students pursuing these degrees already have an undergraduate degree, and they should be far more informed consumers. Therefore, they shouldn’t need a lot of public support to finance their next credential.”

Grad students are allowed to access federal loans to finance their tuition costs. With more than $1 trillion in outstanding student debt, about 40 percent of government education loans are for graduate degrees, the study found.

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