The Grapevine

70% Of College Students Are Worried About Their Financial Situation

College debt
College students are getting stressed out over their mounting debts. Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

It should come as no surprise that American students are sinking themselves ever deeper into financial debt in order to pay for their college education. According to the Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), 69 percent of college graduates are carrying around debt, as of 2013. The average amount of their loans amounts to $28,400.

And it seems that sobering reality has begun to loom heavy for college students still in school, according to a survey released by Ohio State University today. The survey, part of the university’s larger National Student Financial Wellness Study, found that 70 percent of college students are stressed out about their personal finances.

Polling 18,795 students across 52 different colleges and universities, the study authors additionally found that 60 percent are scared they won’t have enough money to pay for school; about 50 percent are worried about making their monthly ends meet; and 32 percent admit that their money woes sometimes get in the way of actually studying for their classes. "The number of students feeling financial stress is striking," said co-author Dr. Anne McDaniel, associate director of research and data management at The Ohio State University's Center for the Study of Student Life, in a press statement.

Also perturbing was the fact that about 20 percent of those with loans (64 percent in their sample) had at least $30,000 worth of debt, and a similar percentage took on as much debt as they could. "About 30 percent of students with loans said they borrowed the maximum amount for which they qualify each year, which may not always be the best choice," McDaniel said. "But the good news is that about half the students with loans said they tried to borrow as little as possible."

For some however, these financial burdens sometimes led to students either reducing the number of classes they took (nearly 30 percent), taking a break from their education (16 percent), and even transferring to another college (13 percent).

Despite all that doom and gloom, the majority of students are actually pretty damn hopeful about their financial situation, with almost 80 percent who believe they’ll be able to eventually pay back any debt accumulated during college, as well as believing that their educational success will be worth the price of admission. "Students feel good about their decision to go to college and think it will pay off in the end," said co-author Dr. Catherine Montalto, an associate professor of human sciences at Ohio State.

Montalto and her colleagues hope to further explore the relationship between financial stress and college success, including with a more extensive survey of students that will be performed in the next two years. In the meantime, she advocates a greater focus on supporting students. "We need to help students manage their stress so they can be conscientious about their financial decisions, but not so overwhelmed that it hurts their academics or health," she said.

Source: Ashton B, McDaniel A, Montalto C, et al. National Student Financial Wellness Study. Ohio State University. 2015.

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