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The Pew Research Center has got this headline blaring out at us today, sending shivers through our wallets and bank accounts: “A Record One-in-Five Households Now Owe Student Loan Debt.” The figures are from 2010, in which 19 percent (22.4 million) of homes had student loans that are being repaid or are in deferment. This is an increase from 15 percent in 2007, just before the economic collapse.

A whopping 40 percent of households led by someone 35 or younger have student debt.

And this is crazy: The research finds that “whether computed as a share of household income or assets, the relative burden of student loan debt is greatest for households in the bottom fifth of the income spectrum, even though members of such households are less likely than those in other groups to attend college in the first place.” The poor can’t win. But even among the rich, the amount of debt has risen.

The AP points out (h/t to our writer Ann Brown) that part of the trouble is the job market. With many college students struggling to find jobs after graduation, debt lingers. Another part is the continued increase in the number of people choosing to attend college.

The average student loan balance is $26,682 with 10 percent owing more than $61,894. Interestingly, Pew notes, “Average household indebtedness fell from $105,297 in 2007 to $100,720 in 2010.” So other debt has fallen even as college debt grows.

To reduce that other debt, people are refinancing their mortgages (our tips on that here) and making strides in paying down credit card debt.

This reiterates the importance of living within one’s means and saving for college. ICYMI, here’s our story from a few weeks ago about applying for government help to pay for college. These resources are crucial now.

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