Average college grad pays $400 per month on loans: Is it worth it?

In a recent Gallup poll, only 38 percent of those with an undergrad degree said their education was worth the student loan debt. 

Christine Armario/AP
Students wait outside Everest College in Industry, Calif., on April 28, hoping to get their transcriptions and information on loan forgiveness and transferring credits to other schools. More and more college graduates are finding that a college degree may not be worth the price tag.

An increasing number of recent college graduates are questioning whether their new degrees are worth the near-lifetime of debt they come with, a survey found.

The Gallup Organization, along with Purdue University, surveyed about 30,000 graduates of four-year colleges in the United States and asked their opinions on higher education.

Of those surveyed, only 38 percent of graduates within the past decade say that their higher education was worth the cost. And of the recent grads with $50,000 or more in student loan debt, only 18 percent “strongly agreed” their education was worth it. 

“This is the alumni themselves. And what we know is that less than 20 percent who took out $50K or more feel that it was worth it. That’s a big eye opener,” Brandon Busteed who oversaw the Gallup poll told NPR. “If we can’t get over that, I fear we risk the tidal wave of higher ed demand crashing down on us.”

With average monthly student loan payments hovering around $400, and 50 percent of college graduates in jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree, it is easy to understand the frustration.

The study found that nearly two-thirds of recent grads took out loans, and regardless of the amount of loans, Gallup and Purdue found that any money borrowing whatsoever dampened graduates’ perceptions of their college experience.

The poll also found that certain demographics, such as black, first-generation college graduates, were more likely to take out loans.

Pollsters also found that at 52 percent, alumni of public universities were more likely to strongly agree that their education was worth the cost, compared to alumni of private universities at 47 percent. And just as they did last year, Gallup and Purdue found that alumni from private colleges had no advantage over alumni from public schools.

Collectively, the outstanding student loan debt in the US is $1.2 trillion and rising, and the effects are noticeable throughout the economy. Millennials say they are postponing other serious investments because of their student loans, with 48 percent saying their debt has forced them to delay postgraduate education and 36 percent saying their loans have prevented them from buying a home. 

So can anything make a bachelor’s degree worth the price tag?

At both public and private universities, alumni were twice as likely to agree their education was worth it if they were active participants in their education by investing time in extracurricular activities, holding a leadership position in a school organization, or completing a job or internship that took more than one semester to complete.

But above all, students were most likely to believe their education was worth the cost if they had influential relationships with professors or mentors during their four years at college. 

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