KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Mortgaging the future to pay for the present. That's the realization college graduates are coming to as interest from student loans piles on the debt. Experts say the booming student loan industry is contributing to the widening of the wealth gap in the United States.
According to the Almanac of Higher Education, two-thirds of those who attend college each year take out loans. And for those 12 million students each year, they may never catch their wealthy peers who began life after college debt free.
"This is Xander, how can I help you," 25-year-old Xander Farris said as he answered the phone at Sarpino's Pizza, his place of employment for the past three years.
Farris is a year-and-a-half out of college, still relying on the pizza shop to pay his bills and scale down his mounting debt.
"Will this be cash or credit ma'am," he asked another customer as the phone rings non-stop.
For Farris it was credit. He's now paying $350 a month toward his student loan debt. Yet still hasn't been able to find a job in his field of study, can't get a loan on a car, and hasn't even thought about buying a home.
"Most people, when they get out of college, they have to go back to a low-paying job to be able to get money in their pockets to go pay bills and stuff. It's not that easy with student loans," he said.
Farris was one of those nearly 12 million who borrowed and because of that he may spend a lifetime trying to catch up to his wealthier peers.
"There is times where the people that don't go to college, they are in a higher paying job, they are off making the world a better place for them and their family and those who have gone to college and are in debt, they are basically in the slums," Farris said, questioning if it was all worth it.
Twenty-year-old Colby also slings pizza's at Sarpino's, one of two jobs he works to get by.
"It's pretty stressful," Colby said.
But the sophomore at Penn Valley Community College has so far been able to attend school without taking out student loans.
"Wake up early and go to work in the morning. Then work all day, then work until about 11 at night then I go home," he said of his long days at both jobs in-between classes.
According to a Federal Reserve Board survey of consumer finances, $ 53,000 in education debt leads to a wealth loss of more than $200,000 over a lifetime of employment and saving.
In the end, some say it's still worth it.
"The American dream, I guess," said Colby.
In August, President Obama proposed the most sweeping changes to the federal student aid program in decades. Now other lawmakers are also proposing fixes, making many hopeful changes will be made, closing the wealth gap in the future.