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The ripple effects for today's heavily indebted young people are becoming palpable. A growing body of research suggests that tough loan payments are affecting major life decisions by recent graduates, forcing them to put off traditional milestones—from buying a first home to even marriage and having children.
Also, the rising levels of borrowing may ironically be contributing to the accelerating cost of college, say some college-finance experts. Loans can give colleges an artificial sense of a family's ability to pay tuition. To some extent, that false sense of security gets built into the assumptions schools make when setting prices, say experts. The idea is that as prices rise, families borrow more and more, spurring prices to rise further, which in turn requires more borrowing. Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, says this phenomenon is playing a role in why tuition grows at about twice the rate of inflation. "Instead of imposing tougher choices" on college costs, he says, it's "easier to raise prices...because this additional loan amount is made available."
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