LAS VEGAS - Instead of calculating her grade point average at the end of the semester, college student Raven Reid is adding up her student loans.
"I wouldn't be able to pay for books or anything. My mom's a single parent, and she lives in L.A., and I don't like to ask her for money and things like that," she said. "I hit my max last year, so I think that was about $6,000. So, $12,000 so far, and I still have another year."
According to Project Student Debt, students who graduated in 2009 carried an average of $24,000 in student loan debt. Student loan debt is expected to exceed a trillion dollars this year. It is not only reaching an all-time high, it's outpacing credit card debt.
When student Nicole Hurley finishes her degree, she expects to owe much more than $24,000.
"I've had to resort to taking out a personal student loan in my name, which was $15,000," she said. "At the end of school next month, I'm graduating, and I'll be $40,000 in debt for student loans."
Student debt may continue to soar if lawmakers go through with proposed cuts to the federal Pell Grant. Millions of students rely on the $5,500 award every year.
"With the tuition rates going up as high as they are, I paid $3,000 this semester in tuition," said Hurley. "It's really going to hurt some people, and it might be a determining factor into whether they can go to school or not."
Pell Grant cuts could affect an estimated nine million financially needy students this fall. With expected tuition hikes at many universities, many students may have to consider loans if they want to finish their education.
"I could imagine. I feel like when I took out my personal student loan, they were just handing them out to everybody," Hurley said. "Anybody and everybody can get a student loan with very little requirements."
Finding work is another struggle for students. According to Project Student Debt, unemployment for recent college graduates rose from 5.8 percent in 2008 to 8.7 percent in 2009, the highest annual rate on record.