U.S. Markets closed

Many Americans Regret Taking on Student Debt — Including Me

Alexandria Bova
Young man standing on the staircase in college with girls walking by.

I completed my undergraduate degree in 2014, earning a bachelor’s degree in English from UNC Greensboro. I originally thought I should continue my education, earn my master’s degree and work in higher education. I was accepted to New York University (NYU) immediately following graduation, and I packed up to move to the Big Apple. My graduate program in humanities and social thought provided interesting and engaging classes but did not prove to be worth the debt I accrued.

GOBankingRates conducted a survey where 500 Americans answered various questions regarding their college education, including student loan debt and their specific regrets. These insights were then evaluated based on gender and age.

See the Full Study: 42% of Americans Say College Isn’t Worth It

Is College Really Worth It?

A majority of students who attend college will acquire some level of debt. But this hasn’t fazed some of the younger generations. In fact, many millennials expect to completely pay off their student loan debt by age 30. While this may be possible for some college grads, my personal experience resulted in a far different outcome.

Related: Millennials Think They’ll Have Their Student Debt Paid Off By 30

What Is the Highest Level of Education You Have Attained?

About 74% of survey respondents held a bachelor’s degree, and only 15.7% pursued a master’s degree. Less than 6% of respondents completed a doctoral degree, and even less completed a professional degree. Millennials and young Gen Xers were most likely to complete their master’s degree at 18.3% and 19.8%, respectively.

I earned my master’s degree from NYU. The larger humanities umbrella gave me the opportunity to take courses in various departments, including classes on Shakespeare, international studies in human rights and creative writing workshops. At the time, I believed that taking a variety of classes made me a more well-rounded student and future educator. However, that is where the positive aspects stopped. As soon as I was handed my diploma, I was footing a bill of over $100,000 — debt I will spend the entirety of my life paying off.

Learn: 12 Ways Student Debt Hits Everyone’s Wallet

What Are Your Regrets About College?

The survey found that about 77% of respondents harbor no regrets about attending college. However, the survey also broke down specific regrets. About 18% of people expressed disappointment in their college major and about 19% wished they had studied harder. Only 10.6% of the survey respondents said they regret attending a college that required them to take out student loans.

Personally, I do not regret pursuing my bachelor’s in English. North Carolina has a large network of universities offering diverse programs at an affordable price. If I could go back, I would not have pursued a master’s degree. While completing my master’s, I worked full time in magazine publishing. I have worked in the publishing and editorial field for over six years, but my particular field does not require a master’s to move forward.

Find Out: 20 Jobs That Aren’t Worth the Price of a Degree

Do You Believe Your College Degree Is Worth the Debt You Accrued?

The majority of survey respondents said college was worth the student loan debt. However, that left almost 42% of respondents who said it wasn’t.

Broken down by age, the responses to this question offer fairly complex insights, as the majority of respondents who said “yes” were from the younger and older baby boomer age groups at 70% and 84.6%, respectively. Perhaps this is because the cost of college has increased significantly over the last 50 years. Gen Xers and millennials are among the groups that harbor more regret regarding student debt, with 52.8% of adults ages 35 to 44 and 44.4% of millennials responding “no.”

While I take full responsibility for making the decision to pursue another degree, I certainly regret going back to school, purely based on the debt I have accrued. It’s the worst decision I’ve ever made, and I am paying for my actions. I will spend the remainder of my life paying off loans, if not potentially leaving debt to my future children.

Also See: You Won’t Believe How Much College Costs Have Jumped in the Past 50 Years

Would You Consider Furthering Your Education?

Fifty-five percent of college graduates said they did not want to further their education, but that also means nearly half of survey respondents considered or are considering it. A majority of Generation Z and millennials responded positively to the idea of pursuing higher education, at 70.3% and 60%, respectively. Baby boomers seemed pleased with their degrees, with over 65% saying they would not pursue further education.

My personal advice? Do not pursue a master’s or doctoral degree in your field of study if your future career does not require it. Do your research and think through your career plan and professional goals. Learn from my mistakes. I thought I would pursue a career in higher education. However, I did not take that route purely based on the amount of student loan debt I had accrued over time. So, most importantly, set realistic goals and expectations for your future.

Keep reading to find out how to set career and financial goals you’ll actually achieve.

More on Education and Student Debt

Methodology: GOBankingRates conducted a survey using Survata and asked 500 Americans from across the country the following questions: (1) What is the highest level of education you have attained? [Screening question]; (2) Do you have any minor or major regrets about your undergraduate experience? (3) On a scale of 1 to 5, how much do you regret your ultimate decision to go to college? (1 = no regrets, 5 = greatly regret); (4 and 5) Do any of the following regrets apply to you? Select all that apply. (6) If you could go back in time, would you make any of the following decisions? Select all that apply. (7) How much student loan debt did you accumulate throughout your undergraduate college career? (8) Do you think you would have been able to get your current job without your bachelor’s degree? (9) Do you think your student debt has prevented you from doing any of the following? Select all that apply. (10) Do you believe your college degree is worth the amount of debt you accrued? (11) Would you ever consider furthering your college education? (e.g., getting a master’s or Ph.D.); (12) On a scale of 1 to 5, how valuable do you feel your college degree is for your career goals? (1 = very not valuable, 5 = very valuable); (13) If or when you have children, do you want them to receive their bachelor’s degree? (14) What was your major or field of study in college? (15) What type of college did you attend? (16) By what age do you think you will fully pay off your student loan debt? Survey was run between March 25 and April 8, 2019.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Many Americans Regret Taking on Student Debt — Including Me