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At What Cost? How Student Debt Reduces Lifetime Wealth


Although the emergence of higher education’s debt-for-diploma system is well documented, the impact of that debt on individuals, households and society has not been adequately explored. This Kresge-supported study finds that over a lifetime of employment and saving, $53,000 in education debt leads to a household wealth loss of nearly $208,000. Extrapolating, the $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt will lead to a total lifetime wealth loss of $4 trillion for indebted households, not taking into account the heavy impact of defaults. The losses come from lower retirement savings and lower home equity. Losses are greater for households with larger-than-average student debt levels, students from low-income families, students of color and students of for-profit colleges.

By Robert Hiltonsmith (2013). New York: Dēmos

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