While about one-third of recent college graduates took out loans totaling more than $25,000, that figure is significantly higher for black graduates and those who were first in their family to go to college.
The finding comes from the second annual survey from Gallup and Purdue University of college graduates and their satisfaction, and it raises concerns about how student loans affect the ability of higher education to level the playing field for those coming from less-privileged backgrounds.
This year's report, which assesses alumni perceptions of their undergraduate experiences and how those experiences relate to their well-being and job quality later in life, addressed several new research items, including the effect of high student loan debt on alumni.
Among those recent graduates who received their degrees between 2006 and 2015, 63 percent say they took out student loans for their undergraduate education, with the median reported amount at $30,000.
Learn more about some of the core groups and issues shaping the 2016 race:
(MAIN) 2016 issues: Education politics, student loans, common core
Black, first-generation graduates take out more student loans
A man carries a sign outside the Capitol during a march by public education supporters on Wednesday, March 11, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. Hundreds of public school students and parents rallied at the Capitol to urge lawmakers to boost school funding and reject Gov. Andrew Cuomo's education reforms. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
In this Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014 photo, teacher Joy Burke checks on the work of her fifth grade students at John Hay Elementary school in Seattle. Burke is an "RCS" (Reduction in Class Size) teacher at the school, a new position there which allows her to give additional attention to students in math and reading skills. Education advocates in Washington state are pushing a measure limiting class sizes, but opponents worry the initiative on the November ballot could make a bad budget situation worse. Lawmakers are already scrambling to find cash to put more money into a series of education reforms under the Washington Supreme Courtâs McCleary decision. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2015 file photo, Common Core opponents wave signs and cheer at a rally opposing Mississippi's continued use of the Common Core academic standards on the steps of the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. Results for some of the states that participated in Common Core-aligned testing for the first time this spring are out, with overall scores higher than expected though still below what many parents may be accustomed to seeing. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis,File)
FILE - In this July 21, 2014 file photo, students at a summer reading academy at Buchanan elementary school work in the computer lab at the school in Oklahoma City. Results for some of the states that participated in Common Core-aligned testing for the first time this spring are out, with overall scores higher than expected though still below what many parents may be accustomed to seeing. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki,File)
Materials are piled onto a cart inside an adult education classroom at the Maryvale Community Education Building in Cheektowaga, N.Y., where students were preparing for the TASC test on March 23, 2015. The GED was overhauled last year to reflect the Common Core standards that have been adopted by most states and emphasize critical thinking. Two new high school equivalency exams that also incorporate some of those standards were also introduced last year. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)
Nevada Assemblyman Brent Jones, R-Las Vegas, presents a measure in committee that would repeal Common Core K-12 education standards during a hearing at the Legislative Building in Carson City, Nev., on Wednesday, April 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Cathleen Allison)
FILE - In this March 19, 2015 file photo, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush visits the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta. In the Republican roar over Common Core, various myths are being peddled as fact. Even so, the 2016 GOP presidential prospects who are criticizing Common Core have a point _ if an overstated one _ when they dispute the notion that it is strictly a voluntary initiative that bubbled up from communities and states. In complicated but unmistakable ways, the federal government does put pressure on states to live up to the standards. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
A personal note shares space with a family portrait and a "Stop Common Core" sticker on the name plate of House Judiciary B Committee chairman Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, on his document-laden desk in House chambers at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Thursday, March 12, 2015. Although some committee chairmen have separate offices in the Capitol, most spend the majority of their time on the floor of their respective chambers and try to personalize their work stations. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
People protesting the Common Core education standards demonstrate near the hotel where the meeting of Tennessee's Education Summit is taking place on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Thursday's event titled "Progress of the Past, Present and Future" will involve elected officials and representatives from 24 organizations focusing on K-12 and higher education. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2014 file photo Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence embraces a preschool student at the Shepherd Community Center in Indianapolis. Pence's office says he signed a bill said Monday, March 24, 2014 pulling Indiana from reading and math standards that were adopted by most states around the country. (AP Photo/Tom LoBianco, File)
Karima Hawkins of Jackson, foreground, holds a sign against Common Core, the State Standards Initiative that established a single set of educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics, at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Opponents of Common Core hope to convince legislators into ending the initiative. Lawmakers return to the Capitol for a three-month session this year. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 10: From left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, participate in the press conference in the Capitol to call for the elimination of student loan debt at public higher education institutions on Wednesday, June 10, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 10: From left, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, participate in the press conference in the Capitol to call for the elimination of student loan debt at public higher education institutions on Wednesday, June 10, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
EXETER, NH - AUGUST 10: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a town hall meeting at Exeter High School August 10, 2015 in Exeter, New Hampshire. Clinton discussed college affordability and student debt relief. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 19: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., attends a news conference with members of the National Nurses Association at the Senate swamp on legislation 'to eliminate undergraduate tuition at public colleges and universities and to expand work-study programs,' May 19, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
US President Barack Obama applauds a speaker after his introduction before signing a memorandum on reducing the burden of student loans on June 9, 2014 in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama meets with Tony Aguilar, Austin, Texas, right, of Student Loan Genius as he hosted top innovators and startup founders from across the country for the first White House Demo Day, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015, in the White House in Washington. Student Loan Genius allows companies to offer a benefit that optimizes employeesâ student debt and provide a matching contribution to help them become debt-free faster.Â (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Students wait outside Everest College, Tuesday, April, 28, 2015 in Industry, Calif., hoping to get their transcriptions and information on loan forgiveness and transferring credits to other schools. Corinthian Colleges shut down all of its remaining 28 ground campuses on Monday, April 27, displacing 16,000 students. The shutdown comes less than two weeks after the U.S. Department of Education announcing it was fining the for-profit institution $30 million for misrepresentation. (AP Photo/Christine Armario)
Details on Wall Street reform and student loans are seen in President Barack Obama's new $4 trillion budget plan that was sent to Congress today, on Capitol Hill in Washington, early Monday, Feb. 02, 2015. The fiscal blueprint, for the budget year that begins Oct. 1, seeks to raise taxes on wealthier Americans and corporations and use the extra income to lift the fortunes of families who have felt squeezed during tough economic times. Republicans, who now hold the power in Congress, are accusing the president of seeking to revert to tax-and-spend policies that will harm the economy while failing to do anything about soaring spending on government benefit programs. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Chart shows total student loan debt since 2005; 1c x 3 inches; 46.5 mm x 76 mm;
A close-up of President Barack Obama signing the bipartisan bill to cut student loan interest rates, Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. The bill has been awaiting Obama's signature since earlier this month, when the House gave it final congressional approval after a drawn-out process to reach a compromise in the Senate. The bill links student loan interest rates to the financial markets. It would offer lower rates for most students now, but higher ones down the line if the economy improves as expected. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Illinois Senator Bill Cunningham receives testimony about reforming community college executive pay and other issues in the wake of questionable spending and severance practices at The College of DuPage Monday, July 20, 2015, in Chicago. The school has faced criticism over a $763,000 severance package to end president Robert Breuder's contract early. (AP Photo/Christian K. Lee)
Darius Gordon of Citizen Action of New York City leads a chant during a rally for public education on the Senate Staircase at the Capitol on Wednesday, March 11, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. Hundreds of public school students and parents rallied at the Capitol to urge lawmakers to boost school funding and reject Gov. Andrew Cuomo's education reforms. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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Overall, 35 percent of recent graduates took out loans totaling more than $25,000, which the survey notes is the level at which debt burden appears to have a more serious impact on graduates' lives. Importantly, though, that percentage rose to half for recent black alumni and to 42 percent among first-generation college students.
Interestingly, Hispanic alumni are no more likely than white graduates to have incurred high levels of debt – though they are less likely than white alumni to have taken out no loans at all.
The survey also looked at the extent to which student debt forces graduates to delay major purchases, including paying for additional education.
More than a third, or 36 percent, of recent graduates with student loans say they have delayed buying a home while one-third, or 33 percent, say they have postponed buying a car. In addition, 19 percent of recent graduates who took out student loans say the debt has forced them to delay starting their own business and 48 percent say they have delayed postgraduate education because of it.
The Gallup-Purdue Index, as it's called, is based on an Internet survey of more than 30,000 graduates from across the U.S. with a bachelor's degree or higher and with Internet access.
The poll aimed to answer two main questions: Do U.S. universities provide students with opportunities and experiences equal to increasing college fees? And do students graduate well equipped for finding good jobs and prospering financially, as well as for pursuing their passions and leading healthy, fulfilling lives?
As the report points out, there is a lack of reliable measures to hold universities accountable to these kinds of outcomes. Various college rankings, including those of U.S. News & World Report, often rely on data such as average SAT scores, which aren't as meaningful to students, the survey argues.
Overall, half of alumni "strongly agreed" that their education was worth the cost and 27 percent "agreed."
When comparing alumni of public universities and private nonprofit universities, the figure varies only slightly, as 52 percent strongly agreed that their education was worth the cost compared to 47 percent. But that figure drops sharply among graduates of private for-profit universities, only 26 percent of whom agreed.
Notably, alumni of for-profit schools are disproportionately minorities or first-generation college students and are substantially more likely than those from public or private nonprofit schools to have taken out $25,000 or more in student loans.
The poll also found that graduates who received their degrees between 2006 and 2015 are significantly less likely than all graduates overall to think their education was worth the cost, 50 percent compared to 38 percent – though that could be a result of both older alumni making more money and younger alumni making student loan payments.
Overall, alumni were nearly two times as likely to agree that their education was worth the cost if they felt professors at the school cared about them as a person, if at least one professor made them excited about learning and if they had a mentor who encouraged them. Other factors that made it more likely that alumni would agree that the cost was worth the degree include if they were active in extracurricular activities, held a leadership position in a club or other organization, had a job or internship or worked on a project that took a semester of more to complete.