Students are borrowing dramatically more to pay for college, accelerating a trend that has wide-ranging implications for a generation of young people, reports the Wall Street Journal. New numbers from the U.S. Education Department show that federal student-loan disbursements–the total amount borrowed by students and received by schools–in the 2008-09 academic year grew about 25 percent over the previous year, to $75.1 billion. The amount of money students borrow has long been on the rise. But last year far surpassed past increases, which ranged from as low as 1.7 percent in the 1998-99 school year to almost 17 percent in 1994-95. The sharp growth is "definitely above expectations," says Robert Shireman, deputy undersecretary of the Education Department. "But we’re also in an economic situation that nobody predicted." The new numbers highlight how debt has become commonplace in paying for higher education. Today, two-thirds of college students borrow to pay for college, and their average debt load is $23,186 by the time they graduate, according to an analysis of the government’s National Postsecondary Student Aid Study. The ripple effects for today’s heavily indebted young people are becoming palpable. A growing body of research suggests that tough loan payments are affecting major life decisions by recent graduates, forcing them to put off traditional milestones–from buying a first home to even marriage and having children…

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