Student debt fell in the second quarter, the first time student loan balances have dropped in the measure kept by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The regional Fed bank reported Tuesday that total U.S. student debt ticked down from $1.261 trillion to $1.259 trillion in the second quarter, the first decrease since it began keeping track in 2003.

During that time, student debt has exploded from less than a quarter of a trillion dollars to well over the trillion-dollar mark, as more families sent students to college, tuitions rose, the financial crisis forced students to rely on borrowing, and a number of other factors generated higher debt.

While Tuesday's report marked the first decrease in student debt, it has stalled out at other times, such as the second quarter of last year. And other measures of student debt show that it is still rising. The Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, for example, reported aggregate debt rising to more than $1.3 trillion in June.

Nevertheless, New York Fed research officer Donghoon Lee said the latest numbers from his bank's report suggest a "positive ongoing trend in household debt," with credit more widely available but deliquencies falling overall.

The delinquency rate on student debt ticked up a tenth of a percentage point to 11.1 percent, a very high mark. Nevertheless, the delinquency rate hasn't risen significantly since 2012, when it reached nearly 12 percent — well above the delinquency rate for mortgages even in the worst of the subprime crisis.

The burdens of student debt have become a major issue in national politics, with both parties aiming to reassure student borrowers concerned that high debt could delay them from reaching major life and financial goals. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, has pledged to make public colleges free for low- and middle-class families and debt-free for everyone else. Republican Donald Trump promised on Tuesday to propose his own plan for college costs later this summer.