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2022 High School Grads Could See $40,000 in Student Loan Debt by the Time They Graduate College: Report

A new report from NerdWallet estimates students graduating high school in 2022 will accumulate nearly $40,000 in student loan debt by the time they graduate from a four-year university.

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If you've attended college recently — or know someone who has — you know it's not for the financially faint of heart.

College is a stressful experience for many, aside from the financial burden it puts on students and families.

The cost of a four-year university, including housing, has increased by 12% since 2012, according to financial company NerdWallet. The company released data last week with estimates of how much student loan debt the Class of 2022 can expect by the time they earn a bachelor's degree.

According to NerdWallet, by the time students graduate from a four-year university, which on average takes five years, they'll likely be on the hook for nearly $40,000 in student loan debt.

President Joe Biden has hinted at some form of student loan forgiveness in recent weeks, though the specifics and timeline are still unclear.

Here's a look at student loan debt by the numbers, according to data from NerdWallet, the College Board and California's public universities.

How Much Loan Debt Should Students Expect?

Students who graduate high school in 2022 and plan to attend a four-year university could rack up as much as $40,000 in student loan debt by the time they graduate, according to projections from NerdWallet.

The financial company estimates 42% of college graduates will accumulate student loan debt while attending a four-year university.

How Much Does it Really Cost to Attend College?

The cost to attend a university in the U.S. on average is up to $22,700, an increase of 12% in the last 10 years, according to NerdWallet. 

Data from the College Board shows the average cost of attendance has continued to increase over the decades.

Students in 1990 paid an average of $3,800 for tuition and fees at a public four-year university, while students faced an average tuition bill of $10,740 during the 2021-22 school year, according to the College Board.

From 2002 to 2011, the cost of a four-year university, including room and board, increased a staggering 22%.

Adding in room, board and other expenses, students likely face a cost much higher than just tuition.

In California, tuition for one year at a CSU campus tops $5,000, while UC tuition costs more than $13,000.

Can Students Work Their Way Through College Nowadays?

As the cost of higher education continues to rise, experts at NerdWallet say it’s nearly impossible to pay for college with a minimum wage job.

According to the financial website, a student earning the federal minimum wage would need to work 52 hours per week to pay for the average cost of attendance at a public university. 

In California, of course, the number of hours would differ because of the state's higher minimum wage.

The current federal minimum wage sits at $7.25, while California's is $15 -- nearly double the national rate. In Los Angeles, the minimum wage is set to increase to $16.04 in July.

In San Francisco, the current minimum wage is $16.32.

What About Student Loan Forgiveness? 

President Joe Biden has hinted at the possibility of forgiving some student loan debt in the future.

The president is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks.  As far as how much, if any, the president may eliminate — time will tell. Federal student loan payments remain on hold for borrowers until September.

California Rep. Tony Cardenas, who met with Biden last month with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said the president could cancel student debt using his executive powers. 

“He said, ‘Yes, I’m exploring doing something on that front,’" Cardenas told the Associated Press. “And he also smiled and said, ‘You’re going to like what I do on that as well.'” 

62% of student loan borrowers who responded to a survey said their debt was negatively impacting their mental health, according to polling firm Momentive. To find out if there's light at the end of the tunnel we talked to student financial planner Mark Kantrowitz on whether that debt might be forgiven, and what President Joe Biden can do about it.
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