The study revealed some startling results that suggest a college education has become unaffordable to many young adults. For example, more students are taking on debt to finance their college education because of a shift in federal student aid programs. In 1980, the most common form of college funding was federal grants, which amounted to 52 percent of the government's student aid system. Loans followed at 45 percent. But by 2000, loans had risen to 58 percent of the student aid pie while grants dropped to 41 percent. Coinciding with the shift in federal student aid programs were dramatic increases in college tuition.
A 2004 study dubbed "Generation Broke: The Growth of Debt Among Young Americans," released by the New York public policy group Demos, paints a grim outlook for the 18-to-34 age group. The exhaustive study links the rise in personal debt levels among young adults to eye-popping college tuition hikes in the 1990s and aggressive marketing to college students by credit card companies.