Grantee Research

The Rising Tide of Graduate Student Debt: Evidence of Change 2008 to 2012

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



graduate schools, professional schools, student loans, human capital investment theory, race, gender


The price of a graduate training in the US continues to rise, and in 2012, graduate students borrowed more than 35 billion dollars in federal and private loans to finance their education. Using data from the National Study of Postsecondary Student Aid (NPSAS) this study examined changes in graduate student education debt from 2008 to 2012. While the greatest percentage increase in debt from 2008 to 2012 was for students in some Master’s level programs, findings revealed increases in many graduate level programs, including Medicine with a 2012 cumulative debt of over $143,000 and Law students at almost $124,000. Increasing education debt may discourage students from even considering enrollment and may motivate degree completers to seek more lucrative jobs after graduation simply to pay off loans. Additional implications are discussed.