Americans don’t regret $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, but they sure do wish going to college were free.
Most everyone — those who did and did not attend college — think it’s still a solid investment, regardless of debt. A new study from Bankrate says 73 percent of all Americans believe college is important, and 62 percent believe it should be free to anyone who wants to go.
Young people especially believe in a free college education. Morley Winograd, president and CEO of the Campaign for Free College Tuition, told Bankrate that younger Americans are the ones facing the most financial setbacks due to student loan debt.
“Millennials, as the generation most impacted by skyrocketing tuition prices, see free college tuition as an important part of the changes in American society they plan to make now that more than 1 out of 3 adult Americans are from their generation,” he says.
CollegeBoard says tuition and fees are almost $10,000 a year for in-state, public colleges. Taking out student loans can be a huge setback later in life. Repayment for those loans could mean postponing contributions to retirement accounts, delaying marriage and children, and leaving the nest once and for all.
The money problems may be just here in the United States. In some countries, college is free for residents and international students. Some Americans are heading abroad not just for the low cost of an education, which CNN says often include courses taught entirely in English.
The younger you are, the less you value college
Most younger millennials believe college is worthwhile, but 21 percent of 18-25 year-olds don’t. Bankrate says this is more than any other age group.
And that could be because many younger Americans haven’t experienced major setbacks yet, like less money for 401(k) contributions and home-buying, like older Americans have. They don’t understand the value a degree can add over a lifetime. But it’s worth pointing out that more than two-thirds of Americans with student loans or those that have kids with student loans wish they had handled their college finances differently.
The older you are, the less you approve of debt forgiveness
While more than half of baby boomers think those with student loan debt should be required to pay it off completely, they aren’t the only ones who think so. One-third of millennials also think a person is responsible for their student loan debt until it’s all gone. In all, 40 percent of Americans think those with student loan debt should own up to it and pay it off themselves.
But some people are more forgiving. Thirty-seven percent of millennials and 39 percent of Gen Xers think debts should be forgiven after 10 years of steady payments. Mark Kantrowitz from Cappex told Bankrate that a decade is a solid compromise.
“Ten years in debt is reasonable,” Kantrowitz says. “More than 10 years in debt risks interfering with the next generation, making parents less likely to save and less willing to borrow for their children’s college education.”