Money on Their Minds: Students Biggest Concern About College is Level of Debt

Student debt is the biggest concerns for college students in 2014.

Student debt is the biggest concerns for college students in 2014.

More and more students and parents are concerned about levels of student debt. In Princeton's 2014 College Hopes and Worries Survey, 39% of student responded that their biggest concern this year regarding college was "Level of debt to pay for the degree". This was also the biggest concern in 2013.

In the same survey, students and parents both responded that the state of the economy has affected their decision on where to go to college, causing them to consider colleges with lower sticker prices, consider more financial safety-net schools, and apply to college closer to home to save on travel expenses.

Among respondents overall (students and parents combined), 77% said the economy has affected their decisions about college."

Based on other reports that the number of students applying to college is actually down this year, it seems like the concern about debt has deterred many students from applying to college at all. As the recession starts to wane, more potential students are being drawn into the job market, making the decision to skip college altogether both to avoid debt and get a jump-start on earnings.

This may be a good thing for job seekers, but it could spell disaster for colleges, especially small liberal arts schools. Some troubled colleges are already taking action to boost enrollment and cut costs by drastically lowering tuition, eliminating positions, and getting rid of programs and majors that have low interest.

Should we be concerned about the amount of students choosing not to go to college? Well... it depends. Despite studies that persistently show college graduates out-earning high school graduates on average, not every student who enrolls in college will graduate. If students who eventually have to drop out of college are burdened with debt, it is almost impossible that they would be able to pay it off in a reasonable amount of time.  For students who were unlikely to be able to graduate, decided to skip college altogether could be better for them financially.

This is an interesting time in the world of higher education. We are seeing a lot of colleges tighten their belts, and come up with creative solutions to boost enrollment and compete with other colleges. It is inevitable that many troubled schools may disappear in the coming years as students become more focused on degrees that will translate into jobs. This will inevitably open up room for more innovative types of learning, including competency-based degrees, and many more options we have not even heard of yet.

What do you think? Is it a good thing that students are making decisions about college based on financial concerns, or is that a big mistake? Is a college education always worth going into debt for?

Are you ready to find the right college fit for your student academically, socially, and financially?