Do you have any regrets? Anything you’d like to “do over?” Well, who doesn’t? We’re all only human. When I think about the past 10 or so years of my life – roughly 30 percent of my life up to this point – there are maybe a few things I would do differently, given the option, but I’m not sure that college is one of them. If anything, I think that maybe I should have actually gone to j-school and ditched this silly notion of becoming a civil liberties attorney a whole lot sooner than I did, but on the whole, I think college (and even that MFA I went into debt for) was a pretty good investment, especially when considered in light of my pre-college options and skill sets (i.e. next to none).
But I might be a minority among my peers with this attitude. According to a recent survey released by Citizens Financial Group, more than three-quarters (or 77 percent) of former college students between the ages of 18 and 40 wish they had planned better for managing their student debt. Well, that’s fair enough, but depressingly, 23 percent replied that they aren’t currently able to make their student loan payments and as many as 47 percent said they might not have gone to college at all had they known the impact student debt would have on their lives.
Citizens, of course, is trying to promote its Education Refinance Loan, but this can still be an important jumping-off point for a realistic discussion about managing student debt post-graduation, provided you have kids in that age range.
Yours truly does not believe the solution is to forgo a college education altogether and furthermore thinks the bashing of liberal arts degrees is some reactionary bovine byproduct, but you can be smart about your student debt. Consider, for example, more reasonably-priced public universities instead of pricier private schools. (I attended two and essentially got two degrees for the price of one.) And maybe just accept that you’re not going to be living high on the hog right after graduation. (Seriously, who expects to get rich in their 20s anyway?)
And if you start feeling too down about the whole subject, just remember that even with the debt load, college graduates still earn more, retain their jobs in greater numbers during economic downturns, and experience lower rates of divorce. (That last point probably has nothing to do with student loans, but I like to throw it out there anyway.)
Finally, a few more important points to keep in mind: The survey, which was conducted by Ipsos, consisted of a 20-minute online survey (meaning the respondents self-selected, so take that how you will) and measured the responses of 500 current college students ages 18 to 24, 544 parents of current college students, and 518 former students aged 18 to 40. The data was statistically tested at 95% confidence, with margin of error of +/- 4.4% for current college students, +/- 4.2% for parents of current students, and +/- 4.3% for former students.