Current: More students in debt

Published 05/22 2014 10:43AM

Updated 05/22 2014 11:21AM

ILLINOIS--Pew Research reports 37% U.S. households headed by someone under 40 have student debt.
That's the highest the rate's been.

Nathan Kruger just graduated from the University of Illinois. He has $120,000 in student loan debt, which is 10 times higher than the typical student's debt. Pew Research says that number is $13,000.

"It's absolutely been stressful, it just adds another essence of responsibility on me to kind of take care of it myself," Kruger says.

Kruger says despite his debt, he'll get far.
"This is the number one civil and environmental engineering school in the nation, so I'm pretty proud to be a part of that," he says. 

Financial experts say dealing with debt takes careful budgeting.

"We talk about it all the time with students," says Kathy Sweedler, a financial educator at the University of Illinois Extension. 

Sweedler says there's more to dealing with debt than just paying back loans. 
"So we're getting a double whammy there, because you have this debt that you're paying interest on, instead of earning a return and I think that this double whammy is where we're really seeing a difference in the net worth of people over time," Sweedler says.

The Pew Research report says people with a college education that don't have student debt, have a net worth of about $65,000.
Those with debt have a net worth of nearly $9,000. Student debt alone, doesn't explain that gap. 
"There may be a mindset that once I have my degree and I'm working, at this age, maybe I should be getting a home loan," says Sweedler.

But, she cautions, people with student loan debt need to be careful about taking on even more debt.
"Keep in mind that little bits add up so $1,000 here, $2,000 there for a new car, all those little bits add up and you have to pay them off."

Sweedler says the best way to do that is to budget.
Kruger is already ahead of the curve on that. He took a personal finance class through his church last summer. 
"It kind of helped me set up what it looks like to manage your money well, and take care of loans, and debt and yeah, get that knocked out as soon as possible," Kruger says. 

Kruger hopes with his new job at a nuclear power plant, he'll be able to get his debt taken care of, quickly. 

Sweedler says, while getting a degree can be expensive, education is a good investment.
People with degrees usually have higher paying jobs, and a lower rate of unemployment.

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