AUSTIN (KXAN) — Is a college degree worth the incurring thousands in student debt? Americans now owe more than 1.5 trillion dollars in student loan debt. That’s more than we owe on our cars, credit cards and second only to mortgage debt. 

An estimated 44 million people have student loan debt, that’s roughly one in four Americans. On average, they owe more than $37,000 a piece, with a monthly payment of $393.

How did we get here? Going to college has gotten a lot more expensive. Factoring in inflation, average in-state tuition and fees at a public school have doubled in the past 20 years, but the median salary for college graduates has only increased 2% during that same time. 

A college graduate will, on average, earn 66% more than someone with only a high school diploma, but it may be a long time before it feels like you’re getting ahead. Most federal student loans have a 10-year timetable to pay it off, but research suggest the average college graduate needs almost 20 years to pay off their loans.