02-19-2017  10:48 am      •     

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- A record number of American households have student loan debt.

Some 19 percent of households had student loans in 2010, up from 15 percent just three years earlier, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center released Wednesday.

Student debt has exploded in recent years as more people attend college, more turn to debt to finance it, and more take out bigger loans while in school, said Richard Fry, a senior economist at Pew who authored the report. This is bucking the trend of Americans shedding debt during the Great Recession and its aftermath.

"In the age of deleveraging, student loans are one form of rising debt," he said.

On average, borrowers owed $26,682 in 2010, up 14.3 percent from three years earlier and more than double what they owed in 1995. But while stories abound of people mired in six-figure debt, they are the exception, Fry said. Only 4 percent owe more than $100,000.

In total, student loan debt is approaching $1 trillion, according to a separate Federal Reserve Bank of New York report.

Student debt levels are rising across the board, but they are growing the fastest for the nation's poorest and most affluent, Fry said. The poorest fifth owed 13 percent of the outstanding debt in 2010, up from 11 percent three years earlier, even though this group is less likely than richer Americans to attend college. And the wealthiest households were on the hook for 31 percent of the student debt owed, up from 28 percent .

The richest share of households, not surprisingly, is better able to handle the burden. College debt accounted for only 3.3% of their household income. But student loan debt ate up nearly a quarter of the earnings of the poorest fifth, the study found.

Some 44% of student loans are owed by those under age 35, with another 26% owed by those between 35 and 44. Senior citizens don't fully escape either, although they accounted for just 2% of the outstanding student loan debt.

Recent grads with college debt may fall into the lower income categories, especially since it's harder for them to find jobs. So they may struggle for a while to pay back their loans.

"They are well-educated, but not yet making killer salaries," Fry said about those just out of school. "For a while, they will be burdened."

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. 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