Generation Debt


The rising cost of borrowing money is keenly felt by college students and recent graduates, who face unprecedented debt from government-backed student loans. Those rates will rise on Saturday, but as CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston reports, young borrowers still have a chance to catch a break before the deadline.

Jason DeBonis and Katrina Lust can use any breaks they can find. The two medical students are young and in love. They plan to marry in May. Their wedding gift to each other: a combined total of nearly $500,000 in student loans.

"I think the reality is going to set in when we're actually getting salaries and a certain percentage of our salary is going to go into paying off that debt," DeBonis says.

Before they earn a dollar as doctors, they're already deep in debt.

"It bothers me," says Lust. "It makes me upset that I have to maybe not do what I want to do because I won't be able to pay my bills at the end of the month."

The nonprofit Education Finance Council has a list of resources, including deals on consolidation loans.

The National Council of Higher Education Loan Programs also has helpful information on its site.
Jason and Katrina's situation is extreme because it includes medical school debt. But the number of college grads in debt is growing, and interest rates are set to rise to the highest level in six years. On July 1, rates for existing loans for undergrad students jump from 4.75 percent to 6.54 percent, and for graduate students from 5.3 percent to 7.14 percent. New loans will be fixed at 6.8 percent.

Students can avoid the higher rates for existing loans by consolidating them at a fixed rate before the end of this week. For recent graduates with $20,000 of debt, that means saving more than $5,000 over the 20-year life of the loan.

"Debt is the burden that pulls back on people when they should be the boldest and making the biggest risks," says Anya Kamanetz, the 25-year-old author of "Generation Debt," who maintains that the debt load undermines self worth.

"When you're not standing on your own two feet, when you're still accepting help from mom and dad, when you still can't pay the bills, when you're still struggling to stay out from under debt, you don't feel like an adult," she says.

Many people repaying college loans say they're forced to postpone some of the milestones of adulthood:

  • 44 percent delay buying a home;
  • 28 percent delay having children;
  • 18 percent delay getting married.

    "It would be nice to be able to save," says DeBonis. "But that doesn't seem like a possibility. We don't have any money."

    What they do have is the pressure of owing so much money — and the fear that they'll have to spent a lot of their lives paying it back.