When Ashley Hardin graduated from Brooks Institute of Photography, a former arts college in California, she was saddled with more than $150,000 in student debt.
She tried to launch a photography business, but she couldn't afford all the equipment she needed, or the promotional materials and website expenses. Her monthly student loan bill was more than $1,000.
"There's a whole umbrella of things that have to be paid for," Hardin, 35, said. "I couldn't see any light at the end of the tunnel."
After five months, she abandoned her business. "I just had to work to make money to pay this loan back," she said.
Student debt can have a chilling effect on entrepreneurship, according to a scant but budding body of research.
People with student loans can have less money to invest in a new business and can find it harder to get financing from a bank. In addition, some would-be entrepreneurs may be hesitant to take on the risks of a new business when they have a monthly student loan bill to meet. After all, half of small businesses fail by their fifth year.