Last June, for the first time in history, Americans owed more on their student loans, a record $833 billion, than on their credit cards, $826.5 billion. The amount owed on student loans increases at a rate of about $2,853.88 per second, meaning we're on track for total student debt to cross the $1 trillion mark sometime this year.
According to Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org and Fastweb.com, this increasing student debt has long term, macroeconomic implications for our society. He told NPR's Marketplace that the amount of money students owe—on average, $24,000—is usually repaid over a 20-year time frame, which means
more and more students are going to still be repaying their own student loans when their children enroll in college. That may make those families less willing to borrow to pay for their children's educations. It also means that they aren't going to be as capable of saving for their children's education or even for their own retirement.
The other insidious consequence of the debt is that students are less likely to purse nonprofit careers or work they truly enjoy. With so much debt hanging over them, they chase high paying careers just to make ends meet. And, if you hit tough times and become one of the many Americans unemployed for months, you still have to pay your student loan bill. Unlike credit card debt, you can't discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy.
Curious just how fast student loan debt is accruing? Check out FinAid's insane Student Loan Debt Clock below. They have a disclaimer on their site saying "This student loan debt clock is intended for entertainment purposes only," but with the way that total amount increases, I don't think America's students are amused.