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.
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
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 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.
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1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Splash Financial loans are available through arrangements with lending partners. Your loan application will be submitted to the lending partner and be evaluated at their sole discretion. For loans where a credit union is the lender, or a purchaser of the loan, in order to refinance your loans, you will need to become a credit union member.
The Splash Student Loan Refinance Program is not offered or endorsed by any college or university. Neither Splash Financial nor the lending partner are affiliated with or endorse any college or university listed on this website.
You should review the benefits of your federal student loan; it may offer specific benefits that a private refinance/consolidation loan may not offer. If you work in the public sector, are in the military or taking advantage of a federal department of relief program, such as income based repayment or public service forgiveness, you may not want to refinance, as these benefits do not transfer to private refinance/consolidation loans.
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 May 1, 2020.
Fixed APR: Annual Percentage Rate [APR] is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rate options range from 2.88% (without autopay) to 7.27% (without autopay) and will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. Rates are subject to change without notice. Fixed rate options without an autopay discount consist of a range from 2.88% per year to 6.21% per year for a 5-year term, 3.40% per year to 6.25% per year for a 7-year term, 3.45% to 5.08% for a 8-year term, 3.89% per year to 6.65% per year for a 10-year term, 4.18% per year to 5.11% per year for a 12-year term, 4.20% per year to 7.05% per year for a 15-year term, or 4.51% per year to 7.27% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. The fixed interest rate will apply until the loan is paid in full (whether before or after default, and whether before or after the scheduled maturity date of the loan).
Variable APR: Annual Percentage Rate [APR] is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Variable rate options range from 1.99% (with autopay) to 7.10% (without autopay) and will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. Our lowest rate option is shown with a 0.25% autopay discount. Our highest rate option does not include an autopay discount. The variable rates are based on the Variable rate index, is based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of April 27, 2020, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.43763%. The interest rate on a variable rate loan is comprised of an index and margin added together. The margin is a fixed amount (disclosed at the time of your loan application) added each month to the index to determine the next month’s variable rate. Variable rate options without an autopay discount consist of a range from 2.01% per year to 6.30% per year for a 5-year term, 4.00% per year to 6.35% per year for a 7-year term, 2.09% per year to 3.92% per year for a 8-year term, 4.25% per year to 6.40% per year for a 10-year term, 2.67% per year to 4.56% per year for a 12-year term, 3.44% per year to 6.65% per year for a 15-year term, 4.75% per year to 6.93% per year for a 20-year term, or 5.14% per year to 7.10% for a 25-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate may be between 9.00% and 16.00%, depending on loan term. The floor rate may be between 0.54% and 4.21%, depending on loan term. 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.
2 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 June 23, 2020. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.79% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.64% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate 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 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of July 31, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 7/31/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). 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 0.18% effective July 10, 2020.