As you are probably aware, the student loan problem in the U.S is continuing to increase. As with any debt, it wasn’t always the norm for people to borrow money to attend college. It wasn’t until 1840 that the first student loans were offered to students that attended Harvard.

It would be over one hundred years – in 1958 – before federally backed student loans were offered to college students attending any school. The goal? To help more American students be able to attend college, with the hopes of being more competitive with other countries like Russia which had more students attending college at the time.

The plan worked. In 1960, 45.1 of graduating students enrolled in college in the U.S. In 2013, 65.9 of graduating students enrolled in college.

And along with that increase in college attendance came a steady rise in student loan debt numbers. In 2016, the average college graduate had $37,172 in student loan debt, up six percent from 2015 alone.

How are these larger debts affecting college graduates? Are their degrees putting them in a financial situation where payoff of those loans is easier? Let’s take a look.

How Much Do College Graduates Owe?

The year 2017 shows a total of $1.41 trillion owed in student loan debts.  This massive amount of money owed is spread out over 44.2 million Americans. While rising college costs do account for the increasing student loan debt totals, ease in borrowing is also a factor. Lenders have made it easier for college students to borrow money by having minimal guidelines for student loan approval.

What is the Average Monthly Payment for Borrowers?

While the payment for most student loans isn’t as high as it could be considering the balance owed (thanks to longer student loan terms), the average monthly payment for today’s student loan borrowers aged 20-30 is $351 a month, still a stifling payment amount for young borrowers. Let’s look at that payment in terms of opportunity cost.

If a college graduate were able to avoid student loans and invest that $351 over a ten-year period and gain an ROI of eight percent, they’d have over $63,000 in the bank. If they continued contributing at the same rate, they’d have nearly $200,000 after twenty years. $200,000 would be a nice addition to an early retirement fund or paid-for house, but instead, college graduates are giving their hard-earned money to banks and lenders.

What Percentage of College Graduates Have Student Loan Debt?

The latest numbers show that nearly 71% of people carry student loan debt balances when they graduate from college. This makes it tough for nearly three-fourths of college graduates to start saving to buy a home or car. Instead, their focus has to be on finding a way to pay back student loans.

To add to their financial difficulties, as recently as 2015 nearly 45% of college graduates held jobs that don’t require degrees, meaning they’re probably earning lower incomes that make it tough to pay on their student loans and have enough money to provide for rent, food, and other costs.

What Percentage of the Debt Was from Undergraduate Degrees vs Graduate Degrees?

Sixty percent of student loan debt holders are carrying debt from undergraduate degrees, and forty percent of the current student loan debt totals is from graduate degrees. Clearly, all types of degrees are leaving students with the burden of student loans, and with rising college costs, paying for college out of pocket is becoming increasingly difficult for college students everywhere.

How Many Students are Delinquent on Their Loans?

Student loans currently boast a delinquency rate of 11.2%, compared with a delinquency rate of just under 4.5% on credit card debt. Large student loan balances, unaffordable payments, and lower-than-expected post-graduate incomes surely add to a student’s inability to pay. The average student loan balance of $37k+ is more than most car loan balances today.

Add large loan payments to basic survival expenses such as rent and many students are put in a position of having to choose to pay for housing or pay their student loans, and housing expenses have to win.

How Can I Pay Off My Student Loan Debt Faster?

If you’ve accumulated student loan debt and are looking for ways to unburden yourself from steep monthly payments, here are some helpful tips for paying your student loans off faster.

Do a Challenge Everything Budget

A Challenge Everything budget is created by scrutinizing every monthly expense you have and asking yourself “How can I reduce or eliminate this expense?” The goal is to create a bigger budget surplus that can be used to make extra payments on your student loans, helping you pay them off quicker.

Refinance Your Student Loans

If you’re paying high-interest rates on your student loans, you’re essentially throwing away money that could be better used to help you pay off your debts faster. By refinancing your high-interest student loans with a company such as Sofi that helps college graduates refinance student loans at a lower rate, you’ll be able to pay off your student loans quicker and save money while doing so.

Increase Your Income

Sometimes paying off debt faster requires an increase in income. If you’re finding that your current salary and expenses don’t leave any room for paying extra on your student loans, consider trying one or more of these 80 great ways to make money. Temporarily increasing your income is a smart way to reach your financial goals.

The rising student loan debt burden has to be stopped. We can’t continue to place hard-to-handle financial weights on young people who are simply trying to gain a better life through education. One way to help people avoid student loan debt is to look for ways to reduce the cost of college. If you’ve not yet started college and are looking for ways to minimize or avoid how much money you need to borrow to go to college, check out 7 Ways to Avoid Student Loan Debt.

By making a plan for your money before you step foot on the college campus, you can help ensure that student loan debt won’t hinder your chances for a financially stable life.

For more information on current student loan debt statistics, you can check out this article at Student Loan Hero.

Refinance Your Student Loans or Credit Cards

With the average credit card interest rate around 15%, this could save you a ton of money over the long haul. Check out Credible who will help you refinance your credit card debt to as low as 5.99%.

Want to refinance your student loans? Credible can help you get as low as 2.78% APR. Use this link to get $150 cash back if you get approved for refinancing your student loan. The average graduate who refinances through Credible saves $18,668!