Student Loans Continue To Delay Spending Dreams

But majority of debtors across all institution types are satisfied with the return on their education investment

05:00 AM EDT Oct 14, 2015 Rating
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Student Loans Continue To Delay Spending Dreams

NEW YORK, N.Y. – With the election “season” well under way, education in general and student loans in particular continue to surface as major topics of discussion. It should come as no surprise that this topic looms on the agenda for many candidates, considering a majority of Americans (60%) believe the government should regulate college programs to help make sure that graduates can get jobs and repay college loans.

Over one third of Americans (36%) say they are currently paying or have paid student debt in the past, which is on par with 2013 counts (37%).

Among these debtors, 65% say they have delayed other spending/saving due to their student debt. Some of the things they’ve put off include:

Smaller percentages indicate they have delayed getting married (14%), having children (13%), or having a cosmetic procedure (5%).

Many of these deferments are on the rise when compared to just two years ago, including a 9 point increase in delaying saving for a child’s education, a 6 point jump in holding off on home ownership and a 4 point increase in putting off retirement savings.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,273 U.S. adults surveyed online between July 15 and 20, 2015.

The majority of Americans feel the maximum amount of an individual’s salary that should go toward paying off student debt should be 10 percent or less (5 percent or less: 28%; 6-10 percent: 36%), and on average a maximum of roughly 16 percent is seen as the most that should be put toward loans.

So, is it worth it?

It’s worth noting, though, a large majority of debtors across all institution types say they are satisfied with the return on their investment. Satisfaction is highest among those who incurred student debt attending private, not-for-profit colleges (69%), followed by public colleges (64%), online colleges (61%), and private, for-profit colleges (58%).

Looking beyond just those who have incurred student debt, do Americans overall think college is worth it? Nearly two thirds of Americans (65%) believe a college education is worth the cost, and a nearly equal amount (63%) say the same of an advanced degree. Furthermore, an even larger majority of Americans agree both an advanced degree (77%) and an undergraduate degree (72%) make graduates competitive in the global economy.

What’s profit got to do with it?

Americans appear to look more favorably on those institutions not focused on their own bottom line. Nearly six in ten (59%) believe for-profit colleges don’t care how many of their students graduate, only how many enroll and pay tuition, and overall, just over one third (36%) have a favorable opinion of private, for-profit institutions.

However, over six in ten (63%) look positively on public colleges and over half (56%) do the same for private, not-for-profit institutions.

Online, but off base?

Just one third (32%) of Americans give online colleges a positive rating overall, with one quarter (25%) giving them a negative one. They don’t paint all online programs with the same brush though - 58% say online programs with a physical campus do well in educating students. When looking at those without a physical campus, Americans are split almost evenly between the perceptions that these do an excellent or pretty good job of educating their students (38%) versus a fair or poor job (39%).

These less than stellar ratings should come as no surprise considering a majority of Americans (61%) believe online colleges don’t care how many of their students graduate, only how many enroll and pay tuition.

 

 

TABLE 1a

HOW COLLEGE PROGRAMS DO IN EDUCATING STUDENTS

"We would now like to ask your opinion about higher education in the United States.  How do you think each of these types of college programs (2 year or 4 year) do in educating their students?”

Base: U.S. adults

 

Excellent/Pretty good (NET)

Excellent

Pretty good

Only fair/Poor (NET)

Only fair

Poor

Not at all sure

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Academic programs at 4 year colleges

72

25

47

13

11

2

14

Vocational, Technical or Career related programs at 2 year colleges

70

21

50

13

11

2

16

Vocational, Technical or Career related programs at 4 year colleges

69

23

46

12

10

2

19

Academic programs at 2 year colleges

62

12

51

22

19

3

16

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

  

TABLE 1b

HOW COLLEGE PROGRAMS DO IN EDUCATING STUDENTS

By Generation, Education & Gender

"We would now like to ask your opinion about higher education in the United States.  How do you think each of these types of college programs (2 year or 4 year) do in educating their students?”

Summary of those saying “Excellent” or “Pretty good”

Base: U.S. adults

 

2015 Total

2013 Total

Generation

Education

Gender

Millennials (18-35)

Gen Xers (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

H.S. or less

Some college

College grad

Post grad

Male

Female

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Academic programs at 4 year colleges

72

66

74

70

73

73

65

73

79

87

73

72

Vocational, Technical or Career related programs at 2 year colleges

70

65

66

66

75

75

68

71

73

72

71

70

Vocational, Technical or Career related programs at 4 year colleges

69

67

67

65

73

73

67

69

71

70

70

68

Academic programs at 2 year colleges

62

57

59

59

68

63

57

68

66

62

61

64

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.


TABLE 2a

HOW ONLINE COLLEGE PROGRAMS DO IN EDUCATING STUDENTS

"And how well do you think online college or university programs do in educating their students?”

Base: U.S. adults

 

Excellent/Pretty good (NET)

Excellent

Pretty good

Only fair/Poor (NET)

Only fair

Poor

Not at all sure

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Online programs offered by colleges or universities which also have a physical campus

58

14

44

21

17

4

21

Online programs offered by colleges or universities which are online only, with no physical campus

38

8

30

39

29

10

23

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

 

TABLE 2b

HOW ONLINE COLLEGE PROGRAMS DO IN EDUCATING STUDENTS

By Generation, Education & Gender

"We would now like to ask your opinion about higher education in the United States.  How do you think each of these types of college programs (2 year or 4 year) do in educating their students?”

Summary of those saying “Excellent” or “Pretty good”

Base: U.S. adults

 

Total

Generation

Education

Gender

Millennials (18-35)

Gen Xers (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

H.S. or less

Some college

College grad

Post grad

Male

Female

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Online programs offered by colleges or universities which also have a physical campus

58

64

59

55

49

53

63

63

57

56

60

Online programs offered by colleges or universities which are online only, with no physical campus

38

46

40

34

26

38

42

39

28

36

40

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

 

TABLE 3a

VIEWS OF HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS

"Do you have a positive or a negative opinion of each of the following types of higher education institutions in the United States?”

Base: U.S. adults

 

Positive (NET)

Very positive

Somewhat positive

Neither positive nor negative

Negative (NET)

Somewhat negative

Very negative

Don’t know

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Public colleges or universities (i.e., schools which receive local and state funding)

63

25

38

19

8

6

2

9

Private, not-for-profit colleges or universities (i.e., schools which rely mainly on tuition, fees and private sources of funding)

56

21

35

25

8

6

2

11

Private, for-profit colleges or universities (i.e. schools operated as a private business)

36

12

24

30

22

14

8

13

Online colleges or universities

32

10

22

31

25

18

7

12

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

 

 TABLE 3b

VIEWS OF HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS

By Year, Generation and Education

"Do you have a positive or a negative opinion of each of the following types of higher education institutions in the United States?”

Summary of those saying “very positive” or “somewhat positive”

Base: U.S. adults

 

2015

2013

2011

Generation

Education

Millennials (18-35)

Gen Xers (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

H.S. or less

Some college

College grad

Post grad

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Public colleges or universities (i.e., schools which receive local and state funding)

63

52

52

63

61

65

63

55

60

74

82

Private, not-for-profit colleges or universities (i.e., schools which rely mainly on tuition, fees and private sources of funding)

56

47

48

51

54

59

71

48

53

69

75

Private, for-profit colleges or universities (i.e. schools operated as a private business)

36

32

35

30

37

38

44

32

36

45

36

Online colleges or universities

32

n/a

n/a

38

32

29

22

30

33

36

25

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

n/a – indicates the type of college was not tested in the given year

 

 TABLE 4

MAXIMUM % OF INCOME TO PAY TOWARD STUDENT DEBT SHOULD BE…

By Year, Generation, Education & Gender

"Many college students take out loans to pay for their education, which they must repay after they graduate. After they graduate, what do you think should be the maximum percentage of one’s income should be that goes into repaying their college loans?”

Base: U.S. adults

 

2015 Total

2013 Total

2011 Total

Generation

Education

Gender

Millennials (18-35)

Gen Xers (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

H.S. or less

Some college

College grad

Post grad

Male

Female

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

5% or less

28

25

23

28

28

30

25

29

30

23

27

24

32

6%-10%

36

35

35

29

38

38

42

35

35

39

31

36

35

11%-15%

9

9

12

8

9

11

6

10

10

6

10

11

8

16%-20%

11

12

12

11

12

10

15

9

10

12

20

12

10

21%-30%

6

8

9

6

6

6

8

7

6

6

6

7

6

31%-50%

4

6

5

8

3

2

1

4

4

4

4

4

4

51% or more

5

5

4

10

3

4

2

4

5

9

2

6

5

MEAN

15.8

16.9

16.9

20.2

14.2

13.8

13.6

15.3

15.6

18.1

14.6

16.5

15.3

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

* indicates an incidence of <0.5%

 

TABLE 5a

AGREEMENT ON STATEMENTS ABOUT FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES AND OTHER EDUCATION ISSUES

"How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?”

Base: U.S. adults

 

Agree (NET)

Strongly agree

Somewhat agree

Disagree (NET)

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree

Not at all sure

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

An advanced degree (e.g., Master’s, Doctorate, etc.) makes graduates competitive in the global economy

77

38

38

12

9

3

12

An undergraduate degree (e.g., Bachelor’s, Associate’s) makes graduates competitive in the global economy

72

25

47

16

13

4

12

A college education is worth the cost.

65

28

36

26

19

7

10

An advanced degree (Master’s, Doctorate, etc.) is worth the cost.

63

25

38

23

18

5

14

Online colleges/universities do not care how many of their students graduate, only how many enroll and pay tuition.

61

27

34

22

16

6

18

The government should regulate college programs to help make sure that graduates can get jobs and repay college loans.

60

33

27

29

14

15

11

For-profit colleges/universities do not care how many of their students graduate, only how many enroll and pay tuition.

59

28

31

24

18

6

17

Public and not-for-profit colleges/universities do not care how many of their students graduate, only how many enroll and pay tuition.

43

16

27

40

29

11

17

A college education does not help people get a job.

40

14

26

53

31

22

7

An advanced degree (Master’s, Doctorate, etc.) does not help people get a job.

37

13

24

52

32

20

11

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

 

 

TABLE 5b

AGREEMENT ON STATEMENTS ABOUT FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES AND OTHER EDUCATION ISSUES

By Year, Generation and Education

"How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?”

Summary of those saying “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree”

Base: U.S. adults

 

Total 2015

Total 2013

Total 2011

Generation

Education

Millennials (18-35)

Gen Xers (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

H.S. or less

Some college

College grad

Post grad

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

An advanced degree (e.g., Master’s, Doctorate, etc.) makes graduates competitive in the global economy

77

n/a

n/a

74

73

79

83

73

74

81

89

An undergraduate degree (e.g., Bachelor’s, Associate’s) makes graduates competitive in the global economy

72

n/a

n/a

68

70

75

79

67

70

79

83

A college education is worth the cost.

65

65

n/a

62

66

65

65

60

62

71

79

An advanced degree (Master’s, Doctorate, etc.) is worth the cost.

63

61

n/a

63

61

64

69

60

60

68

77

Online colleges/universities do not care how many of their students graduate, only how many enroll and pay tuition.

61

n/a

n/a

58

61

60

68

54

63

69

67

The government should regulate college programs to help make sure that graduates can get jobs and repay college loans.

60

55

51

70

62

53

45

61

62

57

52

For-profit colleges/universities do not care how many of their students graduate, only how many enroll and pay tuition.

59

60

57

61

63

54

61

53

60

68

65

Public and not-for-profit colleges/universities do not care how many of their students graduate, only how many enroll and pay tuition.

43

44

42

44

45

41

43

40

46

48

41

A college education does not help people get a job.

40

40

n/a

47

42

35

35

41

46

40

24

An advanced degree (Master’s, Doctorate, etc.) does not help people get a job.

37

38

n/a

37

42

36

27

33

42

41

30

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

Note: n/a indicates not asked in that year

 

 

TABLE 6

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH STUDENT DEBT

"Which of the following best describes you?”

Base: U.S. adults

 

Total 2015

Total 2013

Generation

Millennials (18-35)

Gen Xers (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

%

%

%

%

%

%

Currently paying off student debt or have in the past

36

37

47

46

27

9

     I am currently paying off student debt

18

16

37

18

5

-

     I am not paying off student debt now, but I have in the past

18

21

10

28

22

9

I have never had to pay off student debt

64

63

53

54

73

91

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

* indicates <0.5%

 

 

TABLE 7

DELAYED SPENDING DUE TO STUDENT DEBT

"Which of the following things, if any, have you had/did you ever have to delay or put off because of your student debt?”

Base: Currently paying of student debt or have in the past

 

2015 Total

2013 Total

%

%

Have delayed any (NET)

65

64

Saving towards my retirement

39

35

Buying or leasing a new car

30

29

A “dream” vacation (e.g., tropical, European, etc.)

30

29

Buying a home

30

24

A college fund for my child(ren)

^31

^22

Getting married

14

n/a

Having children

13

n/a

A cosmetic procedure (e.g., rhinoplasty, hair transplantation, breast augmentation, etc.)

5

7

Other

13

14

None of these

35

36

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

^Among parents of children under 18

Note: n/a indicates not asked in that year

  

TABLE 8

TYPE OF STUDENT DEBT

"Thinking more specifically about student debt you’re currently paying off/you’ve paid off in the past, for which of these types of programs have you paid off or are you paying off student debt? Please select all that apply.”

Base: Currently paying of student debt or have in the past

 

Total

Generation

Millennials (18-35)

Gen Xers (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

 

%

%

%

%

 

Public colleges or universities (i.e., schools which receive local and state funding)

53

50

60

48

 

Private, not-for-profit colleges or universities (i.e., schools which rely mainly on tuition, fees and private sources of funding)

23

25

20

21

 

Private, for-profit colleges or universities (i.e., schools operated as a private business)

20

22

14

24

 

Online colleges or universities

15

25

11

8

 

Other

9

8

9

10

 

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

* indicates <0.5%

 

 

TABLE 9

SATISFACTION WITH ROI FROM PUBLIC COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY DEBT

"Thinking about the student debt you incurred to pay for classes through a public college or university, how satisfied are you with the return on that investment?”

Base: Currently Paying Off Student Debt Or Did In The Past For Public Colleges Or Universities

 

Total

%

 

Satisfied (NET)

64

 

Very satisfied

30

 

Somewhat satisfied

34

 

Not satisfied (NET)

31

 

Not very satisfied

16

 

Not at all satisfied

15

 

Not at all sure

6

 

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

 

 

TABLE 10

SATISFACTION WITH ROI FROM PRIVATE, NOT-FOR-PROFIT COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY DEBT

"Thinking about the student debt you incurred to pay for classes through a private, not-for-profit college or university, how satisfied are you with the return on that investment?”

Base: Currently Paying Off Student Debt Or Did In The Past For Private, Not-For-Profit Colleges Or Universities

 

Total

%

 

Satisfied (NET)

69

 

Very satisfied

38

 

Somewhat satisfied

31

 

Not satisfied (NET)

27

 

Not very satisfied

18

 

Not at all satisfied

9

 

Not at all sure

4

 

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

 

 

TABLE 11

SATISFACTION WITH ROI FROM PRIVATE, FOR-PROFIT COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY DEBT

“Thinking about the student debt you incurred to pay for classes through a private, for-profit college or university, how satisfied are you with the return on that investment?”

Base: Currently Paying Off Student Debt Or Did In The Past For Private, For-Profit Colleges Or Universities

 

Total

%

 

Satisfied (NET)

58

 

Very satisfied

29

 

Somewhat satisfied

29

 

Not satisfied (NET)

41

 

Not very satisfied

13

 

Not at all satisfied

28

 

Not at all sure

1

 

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

 

TABLE 12

SATISFACTION WITH ROI FROM ONLINE COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY DEBT

"Thinking about the student debt you incurred to pay for classes through an online college or university, how satisfied are you with the return on that investment?”

Base: Currently Paying Off Student Debt Or Did In The Past For Online Colleges Or Universities

 

Total

%

 

Satisfied (NET)

61

 

Very satisfied

37

 

Somewhat satisfied

23

 

Not satisfied (NET)

39

 

Not very satisfied

17

 

Not at all satisfied

23

 

Not at all sure

-

 

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between July 15 and 20, 2015 among 2,273 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. 

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #63, October 14, 2015

By Allyssa Birth, Senior Research Analyst, The Harris Poll

About The Harris Poll®

Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. 

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