Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, his Republican challenger, argues the flood of federal student aid spending unleashed in recent years has led colleges to raise tuition prices. He wants to return to a system in which the government supports private lenders, arguing it's more cost-effective, and his campaign has called the income-based repayment program flawed.

In Tuesday night's second presidential debate, Romney repeated an assertion he'd made previously that "50 percent of kids coming out of college (are) not able to get work." That is not accurate, though twice earlier in the debate he made an important qualification, indicating he was referring to graduates who couldn't get "college-level jobs." Figures analyzed by Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market studies last spring did find 53.6 percent of bachelor's degree holders under age 25 were either unemployed or working in positions that don't fully use their skills or knowledge.

The latest TICAS report also cites studies that found more than one-third of recent graduates were in positions that did not require a degree, depressing wages, though other government figures cited by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce put the so-called "underemployment" rate for young college grads much lower â¿¿ at around 10 percent.

As for those who have no job at all, according to Georgetown the latest monthly unemployment figure for college graduates under age 24 is 10.5 percent (the figure typically jumps each spring as a new class graduates and declines over the course of the year; last March it was 5.4 percent).

"Increasing student debt in a weak economy can be a knock-out blow to many considering college," said Rich Williams, higher education advocate with U.S. Public Interest Research Group, which advocates for students. "As our economy is recovering, lawmakers must send every signal that college is a good investment. "

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