"Many middle income families make too much money for their children to qualify for student aid packages," study author Jason N. Houle of the University of Wisconsin-Madison said in a statement. "While at the same time, they may not have the financial means to cover the high costs of college."
The study found nearly 41 percent of all students left college with some student loan debt, and the average debt among those students was more than $22,000.
The study involved 4,414 participants in the 1997 National Longitudinal Study of Youth, which contains data on a nationally representative sample of young men and women from 1997.
Houle found, on average, young adults from middle income backgrounds, whose families earned between $40,000 and $59,000 annually, left school with more than $6,000 more in student loan debt than their low income peers whose families made less than $40,000 per year.
Similarly, students whose families made between $60,000 and $99,000 annually, racked up nearly $4,000 more in student loan debt than young adults whose families earned less than $40,000 per year. More than 90 percent of all Pell Grant recipients come from families with annual incomes of less than $40,000.
The findings were presented at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.