Grads with High Debt Levels are Less Happy

Student debt is weighing heavy not only on college graduates’ budgets, but also on their state of mind. The more debt students take on to finance their education, the less healthy they are overall, according to a new poll.

A new report from Gallup and Purdue University finds people without debt are three times more likely to thrive in their well-being compared to those who took out $20,000 and $40,000 in undergraduate student loans.

Twenty-six percent of grads without debt have started their own businesses, compared with 16% of those who have $40,000 or more in debt.

The poll surveyed 30,000 U.S. college graduates.

Rob Franek, senior vice president at the Princeton Review, says Gallup’s results shouldn’t be too surprising, and that the debt worries are a consistent trend in the publication’s annual “College Hopes and Worries” report.

“The biggest worry is that students will get into their first-choice school and they won’t be able to afford them,” Franek says. “We know there is a spotlight on the worry that college costs create for students.”

The average debt load for students is about $29,500 for a four-year degree, Franek says.

“We all talk about students who take out $25,000, $50,0000 and even $100,000 to pay for college, and there has to be a better way,” he says.

But all of those student loans may be well worth it, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco that says college attendance will boost your lifetime earnings by $800,000. The study accounts for the cost of college and the time it takes to actually get a degree.

President Obama has been pushing for student debt forgiveness programs recently. The administration has enacted forgiveness policies for borrowers who make payments on federal loans up to 20 years reduced from 25 years. Also, public-service workers can have remaining debt forgiven after making payments for 10 years.

Franek says he is in support of such initiatives, and that they are “doing great things” for certain professionals, but they are not the norm.

“Most students will graduate college with some debt and I want to make sure they are graduating with manageable debt,” he says. “It’s also important that when they enter college, they know what the debt burden will be. Students are deeply concerned about being saddled with debt, they are becoming more pragmatic and direct in their questions about finding the right fit.”