Yesterday, the New York Times reported that a new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York illustrates the increasing burdens student loan borrowers face.     According to the report, from the second to third quarter of 2011 alone, total outstanding student loans grew 2.1 percent - from $852 billion to $870 billion. Over the same time period, other types of consumer debt, like credit cards, declined or remained flat.

What’s especially troubling is who is shouldering the debt: among people under thirty years old, 40.1 percent have outstanding student loan debt. Among people between the ages of thirty and thirty-nine, it’s 25.1 percent. Meanwhile, only 7.4 percent of people forty years or older have any student loan debt. As a result, $580 billion of the total $870 billion in student loan debt is owed by people younger than forty.

Saddling young graduates with burdensome debt is a threat to our larger economy, too.  As Bloomberg News recently reported, high debt burdens and a 9% unemployment rate for recent graduates are causing young people to delay buying homes or making other important financial investments that contribute to our economic recovery.

It’s incredibly important for students and their families to explore all their options before taking on student loan debt.  Grants and federal loans should be exhausted before turning to riskier private loans.

For more tips on how to graduate with less student debt, click here.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is currently taking complaints about student loan issues.  To submit a complaint, visit the CFPB’s website.