The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported student loans have reached $1.16 trillion with 11.3 percent in default - more than credit cards, auto loans, or home mortgages.
University of South Carolina student Frankie Dee Pruitt says he has had to take out three student loans each year since he's been here and they now total $30,000.
Pruitt is balancing being a full-time student and three jobs to pay for his student loans. His loan payments will be around $300 a month over the next ten years once he graduates this December. He's struggling to make enough money but says he's determined to graduate so he can be the first in his family to receive a degree.
"It's like I'm their last hope," Pruitt says. "A lot of pressure comes from myself wanting to break out from where I come from."
USC Financial Aid Director Joey Derrick believes the high default rate for student loans is a reflection of a poor economy, not the fault of individual students.
"Generally when the economy suffers, people aren't able to make their payments. Employers aren't able to hire as many people. Recent graduates aren't able to find a job that pays as well as they hoped or perhaps work at all," Derrick says.
Pruitt says his next step after graduating is to find the right career to help him repay the money he owes.
Regardless of his student debt, Pruitt says borrowing money to receive his degree is worth the risk.
Derrick agrees, saying student loans can be a necessary part of the education process.
"If you expect to be successful, expect to finish your degree and go on to a rewarding career, then responsible borrowing may be a part of that," Derrick says.
The average student loan payment each month is around $240. The average outstanding debt for students who take out loans is $25,721. Dependent undergraduate students at USC are able to borrow up to $31,000 in loans.