DaMarcus McDowell dropped out of Medaille College in 2015 with no degree and a load of loans.
“I’m probably in debt $15,000, and I’m not even 21 yet,” the McKinley High School graduate said.
Borrowing to pay for college has become as common as the all-night study session. At 112 colleges and other institutions in the state, more than half of students who took out federal loans were unable to make a dent in their loan balances three years after their repayments started.
In addition, three-year repayment rates at most colleges and universities in New York dipped in 2014, compared with 2010. Financial aid experts attribute much of the slippage to new income-based repayment plans that allow borrowers to pay back at a slower pace.
How burdensome is student debt?
Households including people ages 20 to 40 with a bachelor’s degree had an average of $30,198 in student loan debt, based on the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances. Their monthly student loan payments amounted to $262, or 7 percent of their income, economists Beth Akers and Matthew M. Chingos calculated in their book, “Game of Loans.”
Total debt and monthly payments were significantly lower for households who had some college. But those households earned nearly $20,000 less per year and spent more of their monthly incomes on student debt.
Households with a graduate degree had even higher loan amounts, but spent a smaller portion of their incomes paying them back.
McDowell now attends Erie Community College. He gets financial aid for tuition, but the debt keeps piling up.
“You got to still pay for books and stuff like that,” he said.
McDowell hopes he’ll be better off when he gets his degree.
As college prices soared, Akers said, the gap in incomes between college graduates and non-graduates expanded, with degree earners coming out far ahead, despite their increasing debt.
“The question is really, ‘Can we rely on that to continue to happen?’ ” she said.