Student loans can be both a blessing and a curse.
On one hand, they enable students to cover the costs of college and earn a degree, which remains a valuable asset in today’s job market.
But on the other, student loans can drag down a borrower’s finances, creating a heavy burden that often lasts a decade or more.
Given the complex nature of student loans, Student Loan Hero wanted to find out how real borrowers feel about their student debt. We surveyed more than 1,000 Americans across many generations to find out if they regretted taking on debt to finance their education — and whether or not they’d encourage their kids to do the same.
- 46% of millennials who borrowed for their educations don’t want their kids to do the same. The same is true for 39% of Gen Xers.
- 1 out of every 3 borrowers regret taking out a student loan.
- 40% of millennials and 39% of Gen Xers regret taking on student loans.
- 1 in 4 regret how they’ve handled their loans
- 69% of those who are not in good standing on all their loan repayments regret taking on debt, and 63% think they handled their debt poorly.
- Overall, people who didn’t complete a degree or certification are the most likely to regret their loans — and how they handled them — while people who attended trade and graduate schools are the least likely.
- Almost half (48%) struggle to make their monthly payments, and another 20% occasionally struggle.
- Fewer than half of respondents (42%) have researched consolidating or refinancing their student loans.
- 21% of borrowers who carry balances don’t know how to change their payment plans. That number jumps to 23% for those who struggle to make their payments, and to 30% for those who aren’t in good standing.
1 out of 3 borrowers regret taking on student loans
According to our survey, 1 out of 3 respondents with school debt said they regretted borrowing student loans to pay for college or grad school. Considering the high monthly payments that often accompany student loans, it’s not surprising that so many wish they’d borrowed less, or nothing at all.
We also found that borrowers who regret taking on student loans the most are those who never completed their degree, who don’t have their loans in good standing, or both.
Of those who didn’t attain their degree, 42.5% regret taking on debt. And of those whose loans have gone delinquent, 69.1% regret borrowing.
Student loans can be a useful tool for covering tuition, but if you borrow too much — or leave school before earning your degree — they can become a lot more burdensome than they are helpful.
|Regretting Student Loans|
|Yes||No||Maybe / Sometimes|
|Do you regret taking on student loans?||33.9%||46.0%||20.1%|
|Do you regret how you’ve handled your loans since leaving school?||24.4%||57.1%||18.4%|
|Do you believe your income is higher because of your education?||45.1%||44.0%||10.9%|
|Do you believe your increased income offsets the cost of your loans?||63.3%||21.7%||15.0%|
|Would you let your kids finance their education with student loans?||61.7%||38.3%||N/A|
|Do you consider yourself under-employed compared to the expectations for your education?||41.1%||58.9%||N/A|
|Have you stayed with a job longer than you wanted to because of your student loan debt?||23.4%||65.9%||10.7%|
|Do you currently struggle to make your monthly payments?*||48.0%||32.4%||19.5%|
|Are you currently in good standing on all of your loans?*||65.1%||25.8%||9.1%|
|* This question was limited to those currently carrying a student loan balance.|
Millennials and Gen Xers regret their loans the most
When we took a closer look at the responses, we found that more millennials and Gen Xers regret taking on student loans than baby boomers or Gen Z respondents — about 40% compared with approximately 25%.
Considering how the costs of college have risen over the years, millennials and Gen Xers likely had to take on more debt than boomers. Today, the average annual cost at a private college is $35,830, according to College Board. In 1989, the average annual cost was less than half that, at just $17,010.
While Gen Z students are facing some of the highest tuition costs ever, the survey results suggest that some members of this generation might be learning from their predecessors’ regrets and minimizing the amount of debt they take on to pay for a degree.
46% of millennials don’t want their kids to take out student loans
|Would you let your kids finance their education with student loans?|
Given millions of Americans’ experience with student loans, we were curious if borrowers would let their children take on debt to attend college. According to our survey, Gen Zers are most comfortable letting their kids take out student loans, with 73.1% saying they would allow it.
That number dropped starkly among millennials, with only 54.3% saying it would be okay. Gen Xers and boomers fell somewhere in between, with 61.2% and 66.8% saying they’d let their children finance their education with student loans, respectively.
The decision to take on debt for college is a big one that shouldn’t be made lightly. While student loans might sometimes seem like the only option to pay tuition, students and their families should make sure to max out their options for free financial aid and scholarships before turning to lenders.
Nearly half of borrowers struggle to cover monthly payments
While 65.1% of respondents said their student loans were in good standing, nearly half (48.0%) said they struggle to make monthly payments. What’s more, 1 in 4 borrowers wish they’d handled their student loans differently.
The struggle to make monthly payments varies between the generations, from 59% of Gen Xers to who struggle, to 48% of millennials, to 47% of boomers, and 21% of Gen Zers. Among those who “occasionally struggle” to make payments were 35% of Gen Zers, 21% of millennials, and 14% of both Gen Xers and boomers.
Even among those whose loans are in good standing, 31.5% regret how they’ve managed their student debt. And for those whose loans have gone delinquent or fallen into default, 62.5% regret their student loan choices.
Unfortunately, our survey also uncovered that 1 out of 5 borrowers don’t know how to change their repayment plan. If this applies to you, know that with federal loans, you can easily apply to adjust your monthly payments via an income-driven repayment plan, such as Income-Based Repayment or Pay As You Earn. Other plans, such as graduated repayment or extended repayment, can also lower your bills.
If you’re struggling to pay back your student loans, find out if you can adjust monthly payments with a new repayment plan. Learning about your options could be the difference between keeping your loans current and falling into default.
58% of borrowers have never looked into refinancing their student loans
|Refinancing or Consolidating Student Loans|
|Have you ever refinanced or consolidated your student loans?||All Respondents||With Balances||Struggling to Make Payments||Not in Good Standing|
|No, I researched it and decided it wasn’t right for me||22.9%||24.1%||31.6%||19.9%|
|No, I’ve never looked into it||58.0%||47.1%||48.0%||50.7%|
Refinancing your student loans is another way to adjust your monthly bills and change your repayment plan, as well as simplify your repayment by combining multiple loans into one. If you qualify, refinancing might also get you a lower interest rate, potentially allowing you to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your debt.
But among our survey respondents, more than half said they’d never explored student loan refinancing as an option.
Given the possibility that refinancing can trim your interest rate, it’s usually worth at least investigating what’s on offer. Since many refinancing providers will give you initial rate quotes based on soft credit checks that won’t affect your credit score, you can check with multiple lenders online to see what you qualify for.
But along with the benefits, keep in mind that refinancing federal loans turns them into a private loan. This means you would lose access to federal repayment plans, such as income-driven repayment, as well as forgiveness programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). So before refinancing, make sure you’re comfortable sacrificing these federal protections.
Finding the right strategies for your student debt
Unfortunately, there’s no time machine that lets you go back to make different choices with your student loans. But if you have regrets, try to learn from past mistakes and make different choices with your loans in the future.
Here are a few strategies for managing your student debt:
- Learn about the different repayment plans. Although most federal student loans automatically go on the standard 10-year plan, you can adjust your monthly payments by applying for a different plan. And if you have private student loans, speak with your lender about the possibility of changing your plan.
- If you’ve run into serious financial hardship, consider postponing your payments through deferment or forbearance. Although interest might continue to accrue, pausing payments could help you avoid default until you get back on your feet.
- Look into student loan forgiveness programs, such as PSLF and Teacher Loan Forgiveness, which offer partial or complete discharge of your loans in exchange for qualifying service. Some states, universities and employers also offer student loan repayment assistance if you meet certain criteria.
- Learn about federal loan consolidation. A direct consolidation loan won’t lower your interest rate, but it could combine multiple loans into one, making it easier to track repayment.
- Explore options for student loan refinancing. If you have strong credit and a steady income, or can apply with a cosigner who does, refinancing your student loans could help you choose a new repayment plan and potentially save money on interest.
If you have kids heading off to college, have them learn about student loan repayment before they borrow. Our student loan calculator will help them estimate their future payments before signing on the dotted line.
Although student loans can be a useful tool for paying tuition, they can also become stressful if you borrow too much, as many borrowers have found out the hard way. But instead of dwelling on your regrets, be proactive about getting rid of your student loans as fast as you can.
Student Loan Hero commissioned Qualtrics to survey 1,038 Americans who have taken out student loans to fund their own educations. The survey was conducted online from Jan. 22-29, 2019. See the full results here.
Generations are defined as follows: Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, Gen Xers were born between 1965 and 1980, baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964, and members of Gen Z were born between 1997 and 2011.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 9 lenders of 2021!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.88% – 6.15%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.88% – 5.64%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 6.85%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.89% – 5.90%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.25% – 6.39%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.88% – 5.64%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.90% – 5.25%7||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.39% – 6.01%||Undergrad |
|2.13% – 5.25%8||Undergrad & Graduate|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of June 1, 2021.
2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.
Interest Rate Disclosure
Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 2.59% APR to 5.79% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.88% APR to 5.64% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 2.04% and 5.8% to the one month LIBOR. Earnest rate ranges are current as of 6/8/2021, and are subject to change based on market conditions.
Auto Pay Discount Disclosure
You can take advantage of the Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. For multi-party loans, only one party may enroll in Auto Pay.
Student Loan Refinancing Loan Cost Examples
These examples provide estimates based on payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 5.89% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,042.39. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 6.04% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,249.77. Your actual repayment terms may vary.Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest. com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
Earnest Loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC or One American Bank, Member FDIC. Earnest Operations LLC, NMLS #1204917. 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105. California Financing Law License 6054788. Visit earnest.com/licenses for a full list of licensed states. For California residents (Student Loan Refinance Only): Loans will be arranged or made pursuant to a California Financing Law License.
One American Bank, 515 S. Minnesota Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57104. Earnest loans are serviced by Earnest Operations LLC with support from Navient Solutions LLC (NMLS #212430). One American Bank and Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
© 2021 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved.
3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
4 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
Fixed rates from 2.74% APR to 6.74% APR (with autopay). Variable rates from 2.25% APR to 6.39% APR (with autopay). All variable rates are based on the 1-month LIBOR and may increase after consummation if LIBOR increases; see more at SoFi.com/legal/#1. If approved for a loan your rate will depend on a variety of factors such as your credit profile, your application and your selected loan terms. Your rate will be within the ranges of rates listed above. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers, or may become available, such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license #6054612; NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). Additional terms and conditions apply; see SoFi.com/eligibility for details. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
6 Important Disclosures for Navient.
7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 04/07/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
8 Important Disclosures for PenFed.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.89%-4.78% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.13%-5.25% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.