Student debt. Something we can all relate to, and something we all hope to pay off. With the cost of post secondary education on a unfair, and exponential rise, the pressure for students to complete a degree and pay off the debt is greater than ever before. The obvious financial pressures aside, what are the other costs students in debt face? The purpose of this weeks blog is to discuss the effects of student debt on those seeking higher education.
I’d like to start this post off by stating how ridiculous education costs today. Over the course of three decades post secondary education has increased by 250% (Baum & Ma, 2012), with “student debt in the U.S.A. now exceeding $1 trillion” (Doran et al., 2016). A large majority of the student debt (40%) in the U.S. can be contributed to students who pursue graduate degrees. A 2016 analysis on graduate psychology students by Jennifer Doran and colleagues found that the average student incurred a total (undergraduate and graduate) debt of $141,078.07 (Doran et al., 2016). That’s pretty crazy. You could buy a 2008 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder with that money (I googled it).
In a 2015 research article by Claire Callendar and Geoff Mason predicted that the incredible amount of debt creates a debt-averse attitude, which is defined as “an unwillingness to take a loan to pay for college, even when that loan would likely offer a positive long-term return” ( Callendar & Mason, 2015). This attitude discourages low income students from pursuing a university or collage degree. One of the measures used to predict how debt-adverse a student is the wording used to describe financial aid. Financially equivalent choices were proposed to students, in which a “human capital contract” was chosen more readily in comparison to “loans” (Callendar & Mason, 2015).
Doran and colleagues go on to further assess the impact of student debt by using a Likert scale from 0-4 (“none at all”, to “extreme” respectively). Students were asked to rate their financial stress. 48.9% of students gave a significant rating of 3 or higher (Doran et al., 2016). Furthermore, the students were asked if their debt delays other life plans. 65.7% of students reported that their retirement planning was delayed, 62.5% stated that their plans for buying a home were delayed, and 49.3% of students believe their plans for having children and/or getting married were delayed (Doran et al., 2016).
In addition to the debt crisis students are facing, there is a strong link between financial difficulty and mental health. Richardson and colleagues predicted that undergraduate students that had greater financial struggles also were more prone to depression and anxiety, and had higher indices of alcohol dependence (Richardson et al., 2017). The results concluded that “greater stress about debt predicted greater anxiety, depression, stress and poorer global mental health” (Richardson et al., 2017). Conversely, the results found that students that were more financially stable were more likely to develop an alcohol dependency. The study mentions a ‘vicious cycle’ in its discussion, in which low mental health encourages intensifies financial instability, which then feeds to low mental health again (Richardson et al., 2017).
In conclusion; the rise of debt on students has more consequences than just prolonged payment. Students devote their life plans past graduation, and their mental health at the expense of student loans.
Thanks for reading! 🙂
Baum S., Ma J. (2012). Trends in college pricing. Trends in Higher Education Series. The College Board.
Callender, C., & Mason, G. (2017). Does student loan debt deter higher education participation? New evidence from England. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 671(1), 20-48.
Doran, J. M., Kraha, A., Marks, L. R., Ameen, E. J., & El-Ghoroury, N. H. (2016). Graduate debt in psychology: A quantitative analysis. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 10(1), 3.
Richardson, T., Elliott, P., Roberts, R., & Jansen, M. (2017). A longitudinal study of financial difficulties and mental health in a national sample of British undergraduate students. Community mental health journal, 53(3), 344-352.