Aly Eberle and Tom Causino, a Jersey City couple engaged to be married in September, both faced a good chunk of debt from their alma maters.

They worked quickly to get out from under the heavy financial load and repay the loans completely.

But now they're struggling to find the money for a decent down payment for their first home.

"Although we are very lucky to be a debt-free couple, we feel like paying off our student loans in full has kind of held us back," Eberle said.

"Now that we are getting married this fall and looking to buy a home, we're realizing that we don't exactly have the down payment that we would have hoped for," Causino added. "It's all gone to paying off our loans."

New Jersey ranks among the worst states in the nation for the amount of student loan debt faced by college graduates.

The money dropped on a college education has traditionally been considered an investment. But a recent survey from the National Association of Realtors reveals that about three-quarters of respondents said their student debt is keeping them from purchasing a home.

As a mortgage advisor with American Financial Network in Toms River, Josh Blair has had plenty of these unfortunate scenarios come across his desk. Young would-be buyers either can't afford to come up with a down payment or fall behind on repaying their student loans and it's a red mark they can't escape.

"Even if the student loan debt is not required to be paid back at this time, the debt still needs to be counted against the borrower," Blair said. "I've seen people with student loans - they just kind of gave up. They haven't paid, and that will never leave the person's credit report. It's pretty amazing."

Blair said many college graduates are landing jobs that pay less than they would have hoped, adding unexpected pressure to the task of repaying loans.

According to Blair, college debt can also spell homebuying trouble for parents who cosigned on the loans. Defaults count against not only the borrower, but the parents as well.

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