Mr. Swarthout comments astutely:
Still, students remain willing to load up on loans in large part because studies have long shown that an investment in college pays off. (Like students are really going, 'I've read the research on this and blah blah, college is worth it.') The Census Bureau has estimated that college graduates will earn about $1 million more over their lifetimes than individuals with only a high school diploma.
The problem for borrowers with heavy debts is that the loan payments arise long before the higher salaries do, says Luke Swarthout of the Higher Education Project. Most graduates are expected to start repaying their loans soon after they leave school. Besides earning modest starting salaries, they often have to shoulder the costs of moving to an expensive new city. "The problem is, you don't get the $1 million when you graduate," Swarthout says.