Ball & chain: 4 in 5 college grads view their student loans as a ‘life sentence’

  • Nearly three in ten graduates are still living with their parents due to financial restraints from college debt.
  • More than a third (35%) admit to living in a dangerous neighborhood to save money on rent.

NEW YORK — The extravagant cost of higher education in the United States is a hotly debated topic these days, and for good reason. An entire generation of Americans are entering the workforce already handcuffed financially by, in the majority of cases, tens of thousands of dollars of student debt. Consequently, it’s never felt harder for the average young adult fresh out of college to establish themselves, purchase a home, and adequately provide for their family. In fact, according to a new survey of 2,000 recent college graduates, 80% see their student loans as a “life sentence” that they will be paying off until the day they die.

In all, 89% consider their student debt, at the very least, as a major financial burden.

The survey, commissioned by Splash Financial, also asked participants — broken up into 1,000 undergraduate and 1,000 postgraduate degree holders — about the sacrifices they’ve had to make because of their student debt. Among the most common responses were skipping a social event to save money (39%), starting a side hustle for supplementary income (39%), serious budgeting (38%), and taking a job they really didn’t want in order to pay bills (36%).

On a rather depressing note, 36% even said they had skipped a family member or loved one’s important life event (wedding, birth, funeral) because they couldn’t afford travel costs on top of their student loan payment that month. Additionally, 35% say they are living in a dangerous neighborhood all to save a few bucks on rent each month.

With all of these sacrifices in mind, it isn’t shocking at all that 82% of respondents believe their student debt is influencing their lives and decisions in a major way.

Unfortunately, 43% even said that owning a home of their own someday feels like a “financial impossibility” due to their student debt. Besides home ownership, 43% can’t save for retirement, 42% can’t save enough to move to a new city, 39% can’t take a vacation, and another 39% said it is impossible for them to find a new place to live.

Another 35% said that getting married and having children just isn’t financially viable for them because of their college debt. Nearly three in ten (29%) are still living with their parents because of the financial strain.

“These survey findings support the fact that the burden of student loans negatively impacts a person’s financial well-being and it often seems inescapable,” says Splash Financial CEO Steve Muszynski, in a statement. “From grocery shopping to relationship building, it is shaping everyday life. If we’re not careful, it could have massive cultural implications.”

When respondents were asked what they would be willing to do in order to erase their student debt, the top responses were as follows: 51% would shave their head, 49% would walk to work for a month, 40% would never have caffeine again, 40% would go back to high school, 40% would never take a day off from work for a full year, and 39% would even spend a week in prison.

Participants were also asked about the emotions they most frequently feel in regards to their student debt, and perhaps predictably, frustration (47%) came in at number one. That sentiment was followed by feeling overwhelmed (41%), annoyed (40%), confident (39%), and indifferent (8%).

The survey was conducted by OnePoll.

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About the Author

John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

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