Student loan debt is much in the news of late, with a steady stream of articles about how borrowing decisions may limit graduates’ ability to take certain jobs, live in certain areas, or even own a home. But what about the impact of borrowing during the college years?

A study released here Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association suggests that students who borrow are likely to have notably different experiences while in college from those who are able to enroll debt-free. And there are two distinct patterns for student borrowers, one with many more negative associations. . . . Yurk (who borrowed $15,000 to finance her undergraduate education at Northwestern University) said that that “we’re not saying that debt is good. We would never say people should have to take out debt.” The key fact, she said, is that students who borrow “are different,” and that when they have less time or inclination to participate in student activities, “they are missing some of the quintessential college experience.”

College leaders need to remember, she said, that debt doesn’t just allow people to enroll in college, but changes their experience there. “Debt polarizes people,” Yurk said. “There is a chance students will gain responsibility. But there is a risk students get disengaged.”

The prospect of graduating with huge debt can concentrate the mind, but sadly that’s no guarantee of success — or of being able to pay the debt off.