Call it the “college conundrum.”
Most Americans say you need an education to get ahead. Yet the rising cost of higher education is placing a financial burden on many graduates in the form of student debt.
More troubling still, education costs and student debt are putting up barriers that are keeping some Americans from attaining the degree that can help them succeed.
The COUNTRY Financial Security Index® surveyed Americans on topics involving post-secondary education: including community college, online courses, public and private four year colleges or universities, graduate school, trade school, technical or vocational school.
The survey found that most Americans (86 percent) think an education beyond high school is important to succeed.
But the Index survey also found that a number are dropping out, or worse yet, not pursuing education because of the cost, or the fear of taking on long-term student debt. More than half of students who started but dropped out of post-secondary education programs said cost or debt played a factor in their decision to quit school.
Nearly half of those without any education beyond high school said that cost or the idea of taking on debt deterred them from pursuing college or any other degree.
Things didn’t used to be this way.
Rising education costs are making it harder for students to “work their way” through school and graduate without debt. Many of today’s students are still working and taking classes. But they are also leaving school with loan debt.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the number of borrowers with $20,000 or more of student debt has doubled in the last decade. The percentage of borrowers who owe $50,000 or more has increased by a factor of three over the same period.
The reality is many students have a few thousand dollars of student debt after graduation. But keeping that debt from casting a long shadow on your financial future requires a little additional homework.
To better manage finances, borrowers should aim to follow these simple steps to control education costs and manage student loans:
- Set long-term financial goals that incorporate saving and debt management
- Consider community colleges with transfer credits and advance placement tests to shorten the path to a degree
- Comparison shop both private and public schools and ask about scholarship opportunities
- Understand loan restructuring and consolidation options
What methods have you followed to help control the cost of education? Let us know in the comments below.
About The COUNTRY Financial Security Index®
Since 2007, the COUNTRY Financial Security Index has measured Americans' sentiments of their personal financial security. The Index also delves deeper into individual personal finance topics to better inform Americans about the issues impacting their finances. Survey data, videos and analysis are available at www.countryfinancial.com/newsroom and on Twitter at @helloCOUNTRY.
The COUNTRY Financial Security Index was created by COUNTRY Financial. This survey was conducted by EMC Research, Inc., an independent research firm, commissioned by COUNTRY Financial. Surveys were conducted using a national online research panel designed to be representative of the general population and includes responses from 1,000 U.S. adults over the age of 18 for national surveys with additional interviews completed in Georgia, Illinois, Missouri and Oregon to bring the total in each of those states to 500 completed surveys.