"Too much debt will have a cascading effect that will last for decades," Kantrowitz said. "When more of your income needs to go toward repaying loans, you're not going to save as much and you'll be less willing and able to borrow for other goals such as a home."
That's an ever more common rough road for many graduates. According to Kantrowitz's number crunching, more than 14 percent of recent bachelor's degree recipients, on average, end up with excessive debt, more than double the percentage from a generation ago. Moreover, if you're borrowing north of $30,000, your odds of having an excessive debt load are much higher.
"If you're borrowing more than $50,000 for a bachelor's degree, that's a sign you're headed for trouble," Kantrowitz said. His rule of thumb: If a student leaves school with a total debt balance that is no more than his or her estimated starting salary, they should be able to handle the payback within 10 years.