College Education Regrets Plague Most Americans

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Two-thirds of American employees have regrets related to their college educations, according to a June 25, 2019 PayScale survey. Student loans topped the list as the primary regret (27.1%), followed by area of study (12.2%), not taking advantage of networking opportunities (11.2%), time taken to complete the degree (5.8%), and academic underachievement (5.2%). On the other hand, 34% of those surveyed expressed no regrets about their higher education.

Millennials are most likely to regret their student loans (28.8%), followed by Gen X (26.2%), then Baby Boomers (13.4%). Baby Boomers were more likely to report no regrets for their college education (51.3%), while Gen X (37.3%) and Millennials (28.7%) reported more overall regret. Student loan debt was $1.6 trillion in quarter one of 2019, according to the Federal Reserve.

Health sciences majors were most likely to report overall regret (37.7%), followed by art (32.1%) and social sciences (30.4%) majors. These majors also frequently reported relatively lower salaries, which translated into more overall regret.

Engineering majors were more likely to have no overall regret (42.2%), followed by education (37.3%) and computer science (34.9%) majors. Engineering and computer science majors are consistently highly ranked for “majors that pay you back,” while education is one of the most “meaningful” majors.

Private college graduates were more likely to regret student loans (33.5%) over public school graduates (24.4%).

Wendy Brown, PayScale Director of Content Marketing, stated: “Our research shows the student debt crisis is impacting today’s graduates in a very real way. Not only are they struggling with the burden of student loans to pay for the rising costs of education, but they are then also faced with stagnant wages when they enter the workforce because pay for jobs in many areas of study has not kept pace with inflation.”

Approximately 70% of 2019 college graduates are leaving college with an average of $33,000 in student loan debt. Regardless, some still say that attaining those degrees matters. Jaison R. Abel, PhD, and Richard Deitz, PhD, Assistant Vice Presidents of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, stated: “While the rising cost of college may be troubling, it has not yet changed the basic calculus as to whether earning a college degree is worth it. The benefits still outweigh the costs, at least for most people.”

Discussion Questions
1. Is a college degree worth it? Explain your answer.

2. What are some solutions to the student loan debt problem? Explain your answers.

3. Should college be free? Why or why not?

Sources:Jaison R. Abel and Richard Deitz, “Despite Rising Costs, College Is Still a Good Investment,” libertystreeteconomics.newyorkfed.org, June 5, 2019

Valerie Bolden-Barrett, “Student Loan Debt Tops College Graduates’ List of Regrets,” hrdive.com, July 1, 2019

Sarah Min, “Graduating into Student Loan Debt? Financial Tips for Class of 2019,” cbsnews.com, May 27, 2019

Sarah Min, “Two-Thirds of American Employees Regret Their College Degrees,” cbsnews.com, June 25, 2019

Payscale, “Biggest College Regrets,” payscale.com, June 25, 2019

Federal Reserve, “Consumer Credit Outstanding (Levels),” federalreserve.gov, June 7, 2019