Student Loans Continue To Delay Spending Dreams

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The FINANCIAL — With the election “season” well under way, education in general and student loans in particular continue to surface as major topics of discussion. It should come as no surprise that this topic looms on the agenda for many candidates, considering a majority of Americans (60%) believe the government should regulate college programs to help make sure that graduates can get jobs and repay college loans.

Over one third of Americans (36%) say they are currently paying or have paid student debt in the past, which is on par with 2013 counts (37%).

Among these debtors, 65% say they have delayed other spending/saving due to their student debt. Some of the things they’ve put off include:

Saving towards retirement (39%);

Buying or leasing a new car (30%);

A “dream” vacation (30%);

Buying a home (30%); and

Among parents of children under 18, setting up a college fund for their children (31%).

Smaller percentages indicate they have delayed getting married (14%), having children (13%), or having a cosmetic procedure (5%).

Many of these deferments are on the rise when compared to just two years ago, including a 9 point increase in delaying saving for a child’s education, a 6 point jump in holding off on home ownership and a 4 point increase in putting off retirement savings.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,273 U.S. adults surveyed online between July 15 and 20, 2015.

The majority of Americans feel the maximum amount of an individual’s salary that should go toward paying off student debt should be 10 percent or less (5 percent or less: 28%; 6-10 percent: 36%), and on average a maximum of roughly 16 percent is seen as the most that should be put toward loans.

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So, is it worth it?

It’s worth noting, though, a large majority of debtors across all institution types say they are satisfied with the return on their investment. Satisfaction is highest among those who incurred student debt attending private, not-for-profit colleges (69%), followed by public colleges (64%), online colleges (61%), and private, for-profit colleges (58%).

Looking beyond just those who have incurred student debt, do Americans overall think college is worth it? Nearly two thirds of Americans (65%) believe a college education is worth the cost, and a nearly equal amount (63%) say the same of an advanced degree. Furthermore, an even larger majority of Americans agree both an advanced degree (77%) and an undergraduate degree (72%) make graduates competitive in the global economy.

Those with degrees are more likely than those without to feel those degrees are worth the cost and make graduates competitive in the global economy.

What’s profit got to do with it?

Americans appear to look more favorably on those institutions not focused on their own bottom line. Nearly six in ten (59%) believe for-profit colleges don’t care how many of their students graduate, only how many enroll and pay tuition, and overall, just over one third (36%) have a favorable opinion of private, for-profit institutions.

However, over six in ten (63%) look positively on public colleges and over half (56%) do the same for private, not-for-profit institutions.

Matures are more likely than all younger generations to have positive sentiments towards private, not-for-profit colleges (71% vs. 59% Baby Boomers, 54% Gen Xers & 51% Millennials).

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Those with a college degree are more likely than those without to have a positive opinion of both public (82% post grad & 74% college grad vs. 60% some college & 55% high school or less) and private, not-for-profit colleges (75% post grad & 69% college grad vs. 53% some college & 48% high school or less).

Online, but off base?

Just one third (32%) of Americans give online colleges a positive rating overall, with one quarter (25%) giving them a negative one. They don’t paint all online programs with the same brush though – 58% say online programs with a physical campus do well in educating students. When looking at those without a physical campus, Americans are split almost evenly between the perceptions that these do an excellent or pretty good job of educating their students (38%) versus a fair or poor job (39%).

These less than stellar ratings should come as no surprise considering a majority of Americans (61%) believe online colleges don’t care how many of their students graduate, only how many enroll and pay tuition.


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