The burden of student loan debt isn't necessarily a financial roadblock—although for many grads, it's still a significant hurdle.
Recent grads with student loan debt are—no surprise—less likely than their loan-free peers to have a mortgage, auto loan or credit card, but they catch up fast, according to a new study from TransUnion. Within a few years of graduation, borrowers and nonborrowers alike have similar rates of credit activity, the study found. Consumers juggling student loans were also less likely to be delinquent on payments for new auto loans and credit cards.
"We did not find a material impact on younger consumers by this growth in loans, relative to where they were a decade ago," said study co-author Charlie Wise, vice president of TransUnion's Innovative Solutions Group.
TransUnion's study assessed the credit reports of student loan borrowers ages 19 to 29 who entered repayment status in the fourth quarters of 2005, 2009 and 2012—that's 570,000, 1.25 million and 1.56 million consumers, respectively. The credit bureau compared each population of grads over a two-year period against control groups of similarly aged consumers with no student loans, about 16 million to 18 million people in each period.
Broad economic changes over the years studied, such as high unemployment after the recession, were apt to shift the age group's credit participation as a whole, regardless of whether they had loans or not, according to TransUnion. "The student loan group is not more impacted," said Wise. For example, within months of graduation, roughly half as many 2009 grads had mortgages compared to new 2005 grads, whether they had student loans or not.