Student Debt

Survey: Most Students Expect Loans To Create Post-Graduation Challenges

Three out of four college students believe their student loan debt will force them to delay many of their post-graduation plans, but even more — nearly four out of five — said they're not sure how much money they will eventually owe or how long it will take to pay it off, finds a recent survey.

According to a Harris Poll online survey conducted in August for the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), 75 percent of college students said they expect to delay marriage, having children, purchasing homes or saving for retirement because of their anticipated student loan debt. The survey also found that, of the 751 students who said they expected to be enrolled in a two- or four-year college in the fall, 37 percent said they believed they would have to live with their parents immediately following graduation. The same percentage said they expected they would have to accept a job that is not in their field after they graduate.

Nearly four out of five students (79 percent) said they were not sure how much they would owe in student loans upon graduation. Nevertheless, 43 percent said they had a vague idea of what their debt load would be, but only 22 percent said they had an exact amount in mind.

The average student estimated it would take nine years after graduation to pay his or her loans, with 18 percent saying it would take more than 10 years. The same percentage said they had no idea how long it would take and 6 percent said they had never thought about it.

Of those students who said they anticipated post-graduation sacrifices because of their debt, 40 percent said they believed they would have trouble purchasing a home, 29 percent said they would have to delay saving for retirement, 31 percent said they would have to wait to have children and 26 percent said would postpone plans to get married.

"While a college education is increasingly essential in today's economy, student loans take years to pay off and can cause individuals to put their life's ambitions on hold," said AICPA National CPA Financial Literacy Commission Chair Greg Anton. "It's encouraging that students seem to understand that the decisions they make about how to fund their education have the potential to stick with them throughout their post-graduation life."

Since the survey revealed that 59 percent of college students will graduate with student loan debt, the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission offered them the following tips:

  • Do not take out more in total student loan debt than you reasonably expect to earn during your first year in your first job;
  • Exhaust every available source of "free" money, such as scholarships, before applying for any type of loan;
  • Discuss your financial circumstances with counselors at your college or university; and
  • Be aware of the different pay-off options available from federal and private student loans.

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.

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