Analysis shows the burden of student loan debt in New Jersey
Rowan University graduate Akin Olla is putting out an average of $400 a month to repay the money he borrowed to fund his postsecondary education.
While his years at Rutgers and Rowan delivered a system of knowledge and a new group of friends that he claims are worth the overall bill, Olla, 27, was forced to move back with his parents about a year ago and put his dreams of starting a business on the back burner.
The Bloomfield resident has about $21,000 in student loan debt. Olla considers himself lucky compared to fellow members of the class of 2013.
"I have a lot of friends who are dealing with not having any support from their parents, not being able to find a job that can actually pay off their loans," Olla said. "I make enough money where I can still have a decent standard of living, even though I have to live in my childhood bedroom."
Olla, who's also a member of the political education group Tubman Hampton Collective, says he often wonders how student loan debt is negatively impacting the state's and nation's economy — due to loan repayments, many former students are forced to delay homeownership or saving for retirement.
According to an updated analysis from Urban Institute, 16 percent of adults in New Jersey have some amount of student loan debt on their hands. The median debt amount in the Garden State is $18,633, according to the analysis. That's about $1,600 greater than the national median, but the state also boasts a significantly higher average household income.
Of those in New Jersey facing student loan debt, about 10 percent have seen that debt go into collections, at a median amount of $9,405.
"When you can't make those payments, that's when it becomes a real problem and affects other aspects of your life, too — like whether or not you can get that next job or rent that apartment," said Signe-Mary McKernan, co-director of Urban Institute's Opportunity and Ownership Initiative. "It creates problems not just for today, but for tomorrow."
The "debt in collections" ratio is even worse on the national level — 13 percent of adults with student loan debt are past due.