The Other Student Loan Problem: Too Little Debt

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Jesse Yeh uses the University of California-Berkeley library instead of buying textbooks. He scrounges for free food at campus events and occasionally skips meals. He's stopped exercising and sleeps five to six hours per night so he can take 21 credits – a course load so heavy he had to get special permission from a dean.

The only thing he won't do: take out a student loan.

"I see a lot of my friends who took out student loans, then they graduated and because of the economy right now they still couldn't find a job," said the third-year student, whose parents both lost their jobs in 2009 and who grew up in the boom-and-bust town of Victorville, Calif., on a block with several houses in foreclosure. "The debt burden is really heavy on them."

Even as college prices and average student loan debt rise, educators in some sectors of higher education report they're also seeing plenty of students like Yeh. After watching debt cause widespread damage in their families and communities, they're determined to avoid loans no matter what.

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