A couple of weeks ago I set up a poll asking about whether philosophy graduate students took out student loans while in their PhD programs. This is, of course, not a scientifically sound way of getting at the actual numbers, as the respondents are self-selecting and there is no way to tell if they are at all representative of the broader population.
During the several days the poll was open, there were 657 respondents, and of them, nearly 40% said that they took out a student loan while getting their PhD in philosophy, and nearly 25% borrowing over $20,000.
Here are the full results:
Note that respondents were only asked about student loan programs, not consumer debt (e.g., car loans, credit cards, etc.).
Such numbers, were they the products of a more sound inquiry, might suggest looking at various ways philosophy departments or universities might assist students (either through opportunities for further aid, summer work, financial counseling, restructuring of the graduate school schedule to allow outside employment, etc.).
Perhaps, though the numbers are sufficient to prompt a more rigorous attempt to collect data on student debt among philosophy PhD students.