Is College Changing Lives in a Bad Way?

Source: Thinkstock

From a young age, many of us are taught that the way to succeed in life is to get good grades, go to college, choose a major that will lead to a good job, and then graduate. However, this alone isn’t a guarantee for success anymore. Students are graduating from college and graduate school without jobs, or with jobs that can’t compensate for high student loan debt.

Read more: Are Consumers Dialing Down Their Debt Loads?

While a college degree is still necessary for many jobs — and a graduate degree necessary for particular disciplines or advancement — the debt that often comes with a degree can be stifling: Students’ lives can be negatively affected because of that debt. Graduates are facing regular bills but their jobs that can’t pay for them, and debt makes it hard to meet those monetary commitments. Students graduating with bachelor’s degrees are not the only ones facing the debt crisis, either —  graduate students are also facing hefty debt.

Read more: 8 Tips to Get Out of Student Loan Debt

A recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that college graduates are now more likely to have jobs that don’t even require a college degree. The underemployment rate is higher for recent college graduates than college graduates as a whole. This means that new graduates are working jobs that can’t always pay their bills and don’t utilize their degrees.

The average debt for the class of 2012 was $29,400. However, of the $1 trillion total in federal student loan debt, 40 percent of recent federal loan disbursements belong to graduate students, suggesting that bachelor’s degrees are not the only degrees causing students to live in debt. As of 2012, the median level of indebtedness of someone who borrowed and had a master’s of arts degree was $59,000 (adjusted for inflation).

Read more: Is the College Debt Bubble Schooling Graduate Students?

Still, those with a bachelor’s degree had a 4 percent unemployment rate, which is still a vast improvement over the 7.5 percent that people with only a high school diploma faced. This data is based only on workers 25 and older, so it showcases the overall unemployment rate and doesn’t factor in the harsh reality that many new graduates are having a hard time finding jobs in their field.

Because students have so much debt and often have jobs that don’t pay enough, their daily lives are being affected. American Student Assistance recently completed a survey that showed students who have debt are waiting to get married, have children, purchase a home, save for retirement, and even to work in the career field they want, all because of debt.

According to ASA, 27 percent of respondents said they had a hard time purchasing daily necessities because of their student loans, 63 percent said their debt affected their ability to make large purchases, and 73 percent said they put off saving for investments or retirement. Seventy-five percent said debt affected their decision in buying a home, 29 percent had to put off a marriage because of student loans, and 43 percent felt that student debt delayed their decision to have a family.

Although many college graduates are unable to find careers in their field, some graduates are being prevented from taking their ideal job because of their debt. Thirty percent of respondents said student debt played at least a considerable part, and was often the deciding factor, about their choice of career field (47 percent also said the same about debt affecting their decision in starting a small business).

Students graduating from bachelor degree programs and advanced degree programs are feeling the effects of student loans, but some suggest that the huge student loan debt might even be harming the economy. Many students are unable to pay back their student loans, and delinquencies on student loans have risen over the past decade.

Eleven-point-five percent of graduates were at least 90 days late on their loans as of 2013, and nearly half of all students with debt aren’t paying their loans at all because they are in school, have deferred, or have a forbearance. Student loans can last for years due to interest and the fact that students often pay other loans first.

Because graduates are having a difficult time just paying for daily necessities, the economy is being affected. When people have to wait longer to purchase a car or a house, the economy sees a change as well. It may always remain true that a bachelor’s degree (or even a master’s degree) is necessary for some jobs, but student debt is certainly hurting graduates, and the economy as well.

More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet: