Forever indebted: Graduates struggle with loans


Increased educational costs have new graduates struggling with more debt than ever before. Yet most feel confident they can carry the weight.

Veterinary students are facing increasingly high educational costs, leaving many graduates with heavy debt that they'll lug through countless years in practice. Exactly how heavy is the burden? According to students responding to the 2005 Veterinary Economics Student Study, 64 percent anticipated having more than $75,000 in debt when they graduate from veterinary school. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1 : Students expect to haul significant debt loads

When coupled with potential personal debt, those numbers surge even higher. And those towering debts may prevent some associates from purchasing a car or home—much less a practice.

Seventy-five percent of people still chipping away at their student loans say the payments are large enough to keep them from making large investments, according to the Cambridge Consumer Credit Index's 2004 national poll. That's up from the 68 percent of respondents who said student loans limited their spending in 2003.

The debt load young associates face is up, too. In 2002, the Veterinary Economics Associate Earnings and Debt Study showed that 39 percent of associates who were in practice fewer than five years reported having $50,000 or less in student-loan debt. Twenty-five percent of veterinarians owed $50,001 to $75,000; and 22 percent carried between $75,001 and $100,000.

Only 14 percent owed more than $100,000 in student loans in 2002—a far cry from the 46 percent of veterinary students who say they anticipate owing this much today. The bottom line: The associates responding in 2002 were in better financial situations than the next generation of veterinarians will be.

Despite these intimidating numbers, respondents to the 2005 Veterinary Economics Student Study remain upbeat about their financial status. Forty-six percent plan to pay off their student loans early, and 72 percent feel confident that they'll make enough money after graduating to live comfortably and pay off their debt.

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