America’s student loan problem just surpassed a depressing milestone.
Outstanding student debt reached $1.521 trillion in the first quarter of 2018, according to the Federal Reserve, hitting $1.5 trillion for the first time. Though the marker is somewhat arbitrary, it offers a reminder of how quickly student debt has grown—jumping from about $600 billion 10 years ago to more than $1.5 trillion today—and that the factors fueling the increase aren’t likely to disappear any time soon.
“People pay attention to milestones,” said Mark Kantrowitz, a financial aid expert. When student debt surpassed $1 trillion in 2012, “it definitely caused a shift in coverage of student loans in the news media,” he said. In theory, that helps raise awareness of the issue for student advocates, lawmakers and, in particular, borrowers when considering what college to attend. But Kantrowitz added, “What’s more important is the impact on individual borrowers.”
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