NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Post College Debt Keeping Young Adults from Marriage

January 9, 2003

The U.S. government, in alliance with the nation's colleges, universities and other post-secondary schools is slowly strangling the family life of its people by saddling young adults in their early 20s with massive debt, according to Allan Carlson.

By taking on the debt from Guaranteed Student Loans, young adults are delaying marriage and pushing back childbearing for a decade or more. As a result, potential mothers and fathers put off having children until their debts are settled. Such delays mean more infertility, smaller families, and empty or never formed homes.

  • In 2002, the average new graduate carried an estimated debt of $22,000, up from $8,200 in 1991.
  • An average couple that contemplates marriage on graduation would calculate a joint debt of $44,000, a heavy burden under which to start a new home.
  • According to the Public Interest Research Group's Higher Education Project, 39 percent of new graduates with loans carry an "unmanageable debt," defined as requiring payments of 8 percent or more of the borrower's monthly income.

Even in 1997, when the burden was significantly less, one survey conducted by Nellie Mae (the largest non-profit provider of student loans) reported that 15 percent of graduates had delayed getting married because of their student debt load; 22 percent had delayed childbearing, up from 12 percent in 1991.

Source: Allan Carlson, "The Anti-Dowry: A Complaint About Our Student Loan System," Weekly Standard, December 16, 2002.


Browse more articles on Government Issues