Student Debt Exceeds Credit Card Debt

The amount that Americans owe on their student loans now surpasses what we owe on credit cards. There are some back-stories to this headline.

Americans have been paying down credit card debt. And a leading advocacy group says that is the issue journalists tend to cover. estimates that for every 15 stories journalists do on credit card debt, they do one on student loan debt. offers some help:

  • "Borrow federal first. Federal loans are cheaper, more available and have better repayment terms than private student loans. The unsubsidized Stafford and PLUS loans are available without regard to financial need, so you don't have to be poor to qualify.
  • "Live like a student while you are in school so you don't have to live like a student after you graduate.
  • "Do not borrow more for your entire education than your expected starting salary after you graduate. Otherwise you will find it difficult to repay the debt and will be at higher risk of default.
  • "If you are borrowing more than $10,000 per year for college, switch to a less expensive school.
  • "Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at to apply for federal and state grants and search the Fastweb scholarships database to find scholarships for which you are eligible. Every dollar you get in grants and scholarships is a dollar less you will need to borrow."

Some have seen their situations get out of their control quickly. And unlike other forms of debt, such as mortgages, student loans are difficult to wriggle out of.

As an additional reference to help localize a story, has chapters for individual states.

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    Al Tompkins

    Al Tompkins is The Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online. He has taught thousands of journalists, journalism students and educators in newsrooms around the world.


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