NFCC survey: Worth it to have diploma in one hand, debt in the other

May 29, 2014

WASHINGTON (5/30/14)--Is financing a college education a good investment? There's no simple answer, according to a National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) Financial Literacy Survey. U.S. adults have a varied range of opinions and experiences when it comes to how they view student loan debt--and many adults say they would have benefited from the type of financial advice that credit unions can provide.

By a 2-1 margin, borrowers were more likely to say that their student loan was a good investment than a bad investment.  At the same time, however, more U.S. adults would not recommend student loans as a way to finance a college education compared with those who would recommend doing so.  Some felt that if they had realized the amount of student loan debt that they would accumulate, they never would have taken out loans. 

Many adults say that they would have benefited from financial counseling on both ends of the loan--before taking out their loan, as well as after--for many admitted that it is difficult to find the right student loan repayment program for their situation.

Others in the survey expressed interest in obtaining a graduate degree, but felt they could not afford it.  Some predicted that they would probably still be paying off their own student loans when their children begin college.

Even if a person secures a good-paying job, an average student loan debt of close to $30,000 can start graduates off in a financial hole, especially as interest accumulates, said Gail Cunningham, NFCC spokeperson. A number of income-based repayment plans are offered by the government, but sorting through them to find the right plan can be challenging. Financial counseling can help graduates identify optimal repayment plans that can minimize the amount of interest paid over the life of the loan, while maintaining an affordable monthly payment.

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