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Editorial: Student debt becomes a real drag

A Penn State University student walks across campus

A Penn State University student walks across campus in front of Old Main on main campus in State College, Pa on July 12, 2012. Credit: AP

Soaring college debt is undermining a key segment of the nation's economy: Home ownership.

In 2012, for the first time in at least a decade, 30-year-olds with no history of student loan debt had a higher rate of home ownership than those with a history of student loans, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That's a remarkable reversal from 2003 to 2009, when 30-year-olds with student debt -- a marker of higher average education and income -- had the higher home ownership rate. But making monthly payments on student debt, which now averages more than $20,000 per borrower, makes it hard to save for a down payment and to qualify for a mortgage.

So student debt is not just a drag for borrowers, it's also a drag on the housing market and is likely impeding the nation's economic recovery.