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Who Graduates With Six-Figure Student-Loan Debt?

The $100K Debt Club gets a lot of press, but its members are relatively few. Only 1.5 percent of all undergraduate and graduate students graduated with six-figure student-loan debt in 2007-8, according to a new paper by Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Fastweb and FinAid.org.

Yet, as Mr. Kantrowitz writes, “much can be learned by examining extreme examples.” He analyzed the characteristics of students who graduated with $100,000 or more in debt. Not surprisingly, 90 percent of them had been graduate or professional students. Nearly 10 percent of doctoral students were in the club, and so were 36 percent of law-school graduates, and 49 percent of medical-school graduates.

Among undergraduates, more than half with six-figure debt attended the nation’s most selective colleges, according to the paper. Nearly a quarter graduated from public institutions. And less than half of dependent undergraduates who carry “extreme debt” did so because their parents were unable or unwilling to take out Parent PLUS loans.

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