New research shows that students are willing to pay the price if they can pay off their loans within 10 years – but most of them won’t.

3 minute read

Students are always told that college is the best path to a financially secure career. But the price tag for education has increased by at least 20 percent over the last decade. After taking on mountains of student loan debt, many graduates have been left feeling disillusioned and lied to.

Although some graduates are cynical, current students are still holding out hope. According to a new survey from Cengage, a site that offers educational courses, nearly 8 in 10 students think that their education is worth the high cost. However, respondents said it’s only worth it if their degree quickly lands them a job, financial independence, and if they’re able to pay off their student debt in 10 years.

Unfortunately, those requirements are hard to meet. The average person takes about 20 years to pay off their student loan debt. It also takes three to six months for students to secure a job after graduation. Plus, more than half of college graduates are either unemployed or working a job that didn’t require a degree. Those aren’t fantastic odds.

The longer it takes to build up wealth and savings, the harder it is to keep up with debt. And students are at a disadvantage as soon as they start school.

Most four-year students (65 percent) and two-year students (71 percent) are taking on their college expenses without any help from family – and are struggling to make it work. After paying for their educational expenses, nearly half of students have $250 or less leftover each month. That money has to go to groceries and other living expenses, making it impossible for most students to save up.

Investing in education?

Even worse, they may have to take on more debt just to make ends meet.

“Affordability continues to be a major barrier for today’s college students. But despite struggling to keep up with tuition and other costs, students still believe in the power of a college education,” said Kevin Carlsten, a senior vice president at Cengage. “Students shouldn’t have to make painful tradeoffs when it comes to their education and a path to a better future.”

WalletHub conducted their own survey and had similar results: most students think its worth going into debt for a college education.

“This makes sense because students see so many of their peers taking on debt for college that it seems expected, and investing in education typically does pay off,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst.

Find out: Is Skipping College to Work a Good Idea?

Make the investment worth it

A quarter of respondents also said that they don’t feel ready to be financially independent. And with less than $300 leftover pay for regular expenses, it’s clear why. In fact, Cengage found that 14 percent have less than $100 by the end of the month.

“Just because going into debt for a college education can pay off does not mean students shouldn’t worry about how much debt they take on,” Gonzalez said. “Choosing a less expensive school or working your way through college could leave you in a better position with more options after graduation, since you won’t have the pressure of paying off debt.”

One of the best ways a student can set themselves up for success post-graduation is by getting involved in a club, internship, or part-time job that relates directly to their career choice. If possible, avoid an unpaid internship. If someone is taking on a bunch of debt, it’s probably best not to work for free.

Ultimately, whether or not debt and the financial stress of college are worth it is up to you. Taking on student loans is a big responsibility that could affect you for decades to come. So be sure to look into scholarships too. Often times leftover scholarship money will be deposited straight into your personal bank account and can be put away to cover your debt down the road.

Find out: How Much Should I Save for College?

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About the Author

Gillian Manning

Gillian Manning

Gillian Manning graduated from Florida Atlantic University in 2021 with her bachelor’s degree in journalism. At FAU she served as the editor-in-chief of the student-run newspaper, the University Press. During her time there, the paper saw an increase in content production, readership, and engagement. Before she even graduated, Gillian was published in various outlets such as South Florida Gay News and the Boca Raton Tribune.

Published by Debt.com, LLC