WASHINGTON -- More full-time students from higher-income families are taking on debt to pay for college, reflecting rising costs and greater loan options.
The share of full-time college students who borrowed to pay for college expenses rose from 30 percent in 1990 to 45 percent in 2000, a federal study released yesterday shows.
College grants -- which, unlike loans, do not have to be repaid -- also increased over the decade. But the grants were not enough to cover jumps in tuition and fees, which outpaced rises in inflation and family income during the period. So, to make up the difference, more people relied on loans.
The average loan in 2000 ranged from $5,200 for low-income students to $7,400 for high-income students, covering a range of public and private colleges and universities. At four-year public schools, the average loan was $5,300, up from $3,300 in 1990.
The study focused only on full-time students considered financially dependent on their parents. Full-time students account for about half of four-year public school enrollment.
The greater reliance on loans is tied in part to changes in federal law that raised loan limits and opened unsubsidized federal loans to all students, regardless of financial need.
The share of poor students who borrowed stayed about the same over the decade, almost 50 percent. Yet higher participation came among the upper income range of the ''average family."
By 2000, about half of students from middle-income families had taken out loans.
Among students at the highest end of the income range -- from families making $124,600 per year -- 35 percent took loans, up from 13 percent in 1990. The loans often went toward more expensive schools.