Even the Well-Off Find College Unaffordable Now

This WSJ story today on the rising cost of college for the affluent is a cavalcade of shocking statistics about our current student debt crisis: the average price of a four-year college has more than doubled in real terms since 1985; three million households owe $50k or more in student loans, a number that's tripled since 1989, inflation-adjusted. When even the golf course set can't afford college, you know we have a problem.

Of course, since the WSJ notes that "The upper-middle-income households now repaying student loans spend just 3.2% of their monthly incomes on debt payments," it's fair to say this is not the most pressing aspect of the Big Education bubble that will—just you wait—be popping, like a... nitrous balloon at a frat party, or some other college metaphor. Still, it's somewhat alarming to know that even the BMW-driving McMansion-livers are struggling to pay for Chad's four-year sports management degree at Notre Dame:

The Journal's analysis defined upper-middle-income households as those with annual incomes between the 80th and 95th percentiles of all households nationwide. Among this group, 25.6% had student-loan debt in 2010, up from 19.5% in 2007. For all households, the portion with student loan debt rose to 19.1% in 2010 from 15.2% in 2007.

The amount borrowed by upper-middle-income families, meanwhile, has soared. They owed an average of $32,869 in college loans in 2010, up from $26,639 in 2007, after adjusting for inflation, according to the Journal's analysis.

America's institutions of higher learning can sleep well at night that they, at last, were the thing that united the 99% and the 1%, in mutual despair.

[WSJ. Chart via Moody's Analytics.]