College Debt: Delaying Millennial Milestones

Many millennials don’t just live with crushing college debt – they’re so weighed down by it that they’re delaying major life milestones.

An ORC International survey commissioned by PadillaCRT found that 63 percent of millennials owe at least $10,000 in college debt, and 48 percent owe at least $20,000. Even worse, one in four millennials owe more than $30,000 in college debt and expect to take more than 20 years to pay it off.  Not surprisingly, there are ripple effects to this level of financial burden.

The survey also revealed that millennials’ college debt can drive their decision-making around major life events. Many are holding off on everything from starting families to investing in homes or vehicles.

For colleges and universities, this adds another dimension to conversation around the value of higher education. From their earliest interactions with potential students and parents, schools will need to demonstrate that a degree is worth the investment through student and alumni success metrics. And, during the search, application and enrollment processes, it will be more important than ever to educate students on their financial commitments and help them identify their best financial options. For schools with underutilized career services – and there are many – finding new ways to connect with students and engage them with resources also will be key.

Beyond the boundaries of campus, administrators who work with corporate executives and recruiters also have a fresh opportunity to advocate for new workplace benefits and programs tailored to the needs of this generation. The PadillaCRT study also found that 59 percent of millennials value student loan repayment assistance over other benefits, including more workday flexibility (51 percent) or additional training/development opportunities (46 percent).

Ultimately, whatever colleges and universities can do to help students minimize and prepare for their debt burden will provide a valuable, marketable service. And, it will help the next generation pursue their key life milestones.

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