Recent college graduates may be in for a surprise when it comes time to start paying off their students loans. A recent study of Iowa State University students finds many don’t even realize they have debt, not to mention how much they’ll have to pay back. Cindy Fletcher, a professor of Human Development and Family Studies, says she found the results of the survey a bit shocking.

“One out of eight (students) didn’t know they had debt when, in fact, they did,” Fletcher says. “About 37-percent of those who had debt underestimated the amount of debt that they owed.” Fletcher believes that may be because some parents are more involved in the process than students themselves or because students simply lose track of their debt load from year to year.

Fletcher says part of the problem may be that students take on debt without having a good sense of what it really means. “Time value of money, for example…what a debt means in terms of a monthly level of repayment. Those ideas seem very far away, in the future, so I don’t think a lot of students have a good handle on that,” Fletcher said.

I.S.U. officials conducted the survey of undergraduates and compared their responses with data from the university’s financial aid office.