New survey finds 63% of student loan borrowers regret going into debt

Plus Regrets, Wishes, and Advice for Your Younger Self

If you could give your younger self advice, what would you tell yourself about college and student loans? That’s the question that we asked in a recent survey of over 1,600 adults around the country. Their answers might—or might not—surprise you.

The March 2022 survey of predominantly Gen X and Millennial respondents looked at attitudes toward student loans and debt. A whopping 63% of respondents indicated that they regretted taking out a loan. Their top financial regrets:

  • The ROI just isn’t there; I’m not making enough in my career to justify the debt (27% of respondents)
  • I did not understand the true cost of my choice (22% of respondents)
  • I wish I would have been more educated on loans and interest rates (22% of respondents)

In addition, survey respondents highlighted their biggest career regret in light of their student debt. Almost a quarter of all respondents (23.8%) said that they wished they had chosen a different career. 

Meanwhile, 18.7% said that they wished they understood “that the experience of college is not the same as just getting the education you need to work in your career.” And another 18.13% said that they wished they’d gone to a community college for all or part of their education. 

Happily, almost 28% have no regrets when it comes to career choices and student debt. 

Giving advice to your younger self.

So what would you tell your younger self? Almost 28% of all respondents said that they would have “gone hybrid”—starting at a community college before transferring to a four-year college. In addition:

  • 24.17% would shop around for funding options to pay for their education
  • 24.11% would learn how compound interest can sink you further into debt
  • 18.87% would look for other options besides a four-year college

Finally, about 5% of respondents said they would have gone into the military in order to get free college benefits.

Loan forgiveness—and what comes next.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on April 8 that President Biden “has not ruled out” canceling student loan debts. While we wait for federal action, we did ask in our Givling survey about people’s attitudes toward the Department of Education’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). The PSLF program applies to full-time teachers, nurses, first responders, and service members, among others. While 20% of respondents said they were excited—and eligible—a large number (46%) were disappointed that the program does not go far enough. Other respondents expressed skepticism or anger at the program’s limitations.

Finally, we asked people what they would do if their loan were forgiven today. Over 30% of respondents said they would buy a house. Other responses ranged from changing careers or starting a business to treating themselves. All of which goes to say that student loan debt remains a significant barrier to mobility and Americans fulfilling their American dreams. 


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