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- Nearly half of millennials who have or have had student-loan debt think college wasn’t worthwhile, according to an INSIDER and Morning Consult survey.
- The divide between people who do think college was worth it and those who don’t is clear: Millennials who are still paying off their student-loan debt feel worse about having gone to college than millennials who have already paid off their debt.
- College tuition and student-loan debt are higher than ever – the cost of college has made a degree less advantageous over time, one expert said.
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The survey polled 4,400 Americans – 1,207 of them identified as millennials, defined by the survey as people ages 22 to 37 (237 respondents did not select a generation).
When asked whether their student loans were worth attending college based on their financial situation, about 21% of respondents said “definitely no” and about 23% said “probably no.” Nearly 27% said “definitely yes,” while 26% said “probably yes.”
Their answers all boil down to student-loan debt.
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For millennials who said college was definitely or probably worth it, there were more respondents who had previously paid off their student loans entirely (64%) than those who are still paying off student loans (48%). The opposite holds true for the millennials who said college was definitely or probably not worth it – there were more respondents who are still paying off their student loans (49%) than those who previously paid them off (33%).
In short, those who are paying off their debt seem to feel worse about their decision to go to college, while those who have already paid off their debt feel better about having gone to college.
It’s interesting to note that this is true even if those who are paying off their debt have less of it. Of those who answered the question, an equal percentage of millennials who thought college was worth it and millennials who thought college wasn’t worth it owe less than $10,000.
Millennials who thought college was worth it have greater debt, in the $25,000 to $50,000 range and the $100,000-plus range, than those who thought otherwise. Millennials who thought college wasn’t worth it have greater debt, in the $10,000 to $25,000 range and the $50,000 to $100,000 range, than those who disagree.
College tuition and student-loan debt are higher than ever
The rising cost of college may help explain its arguably weakening value: College tuition has more than doubled since the 1980s.
One of the reasons driving the price hike is the demand to go to college, Richard Vedder, an author and distinguished professor emeritus of economics at Ohio University, previously told Business Insider: “The rewards for college have expanded and grown from 1985 to a little after 2000 and sort of leveled off in the past decade.”
While an increase in students attending college now compared with previous years indicates that the advantages college offers outweigh its increasing costs, the survey results show that may not be necessarily true – at least, not for everyone.
In 2017, student-loan debt hit a record high of $17,126 per graduate who took out loans, Business Insider reported. In 2018, the national total of student-loan debt was $1.5 trillion, according to Student Loan Hero, and more than 44 million Americans share the burden of carrying it.
The “advantage of a degree today is less than it was 10 years ago, because of the rising cost,” Vedder said. “The return on investment has fallen.”