Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, does an annual "Internet Trends" presentation, and this year's slide deck can be found here. Included in her presentation is an amazing graphic (slide 79 of 88) that you can see above; it shows how the share of US consumer debt has changed from the 4th quarter of 2001 to the 2nd quarter of 2012.
It is absolutely stunning how much – and how quickly – student debt has grown in this country. From $100 billion in 2001 to $914 billion in 2012 is an 814% increase in just a decade. The next fastest growth category is "home equity" at 390% and it wouldn't be a stretch to say that at least some of that is attributable to parents taking out home equity to pay for the kids' college tuition, so it's conceivable that education is responsible for even more debt than is being reflected by this graph.
One has to wonder – has higher education delivered a return that can possibly justify such massive debt?