New Clock Lets You Watch Student Loan Debt Grow in Real Time

Student Loan Debt Clock as of Aug. 29, 3:40 p.m.
Student Loan Debt Clock as of Aug. 29, 3:40 p.m.

Are you a recent graduate from college fretting about your looming student loan payments and your inability to find a job? Now there's a "fun" new way to keep tabs on the ever-increasing debt burden on young people who are entering the same student loan hell that you are.

Mark Kantrowitz of has set up a student loan debt clock that allows you to keep tabs on the pile of both federal and private student loan debt that is afflicting America -- weighing students down with debt that prevents them from pursuing careers they're passionate about and that, in the worst-case scenario, can literally ruin their financial lives if they go into default.

Mesmerizing to Watch the Debt Rise

Student loan levels increase rapidly just before semesters begin as students borrow to pay their tuition bills, Kantrowitz notes. The clock is "for entertainment purposes only," the site says. Kantrowitz adds in an email that the debt figure is "kind of mesmerizing" to watch.

In a phone interview, Kantrowitz explained some of the math behind the clock, noting that the equation takes into account both new loans being made and old loans being paid off, which decrease the total amount of debt outstanding. The reason the clock grows by a couple thousand dollars per second is simple: Current students are borrowing money much faster than former students are paying it back.

In 2010, Kantrowitz estimates that the government will make about $100 billion in federal loans -- and receive just $22 billion in principal payments, leading to a net increase of $78 billion per year. That doesn't even include private loans.

Between this student debt clock, the Cost of Wars calculator and the national debt clock, you no longer even need to watch the news to know how financially messed up we are.

Zac Bissonnette's book Debt-Free U: How I Paid For an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching Off My Parents will be published by Portfolio/Penguin on Aug. 31.