In a recent survey of 1,338 post-secondary students or graduates born between 1980 and 1995, LendingTree has found that nearly two-thirds, or 63.3%, have graduated or will graduate with student debt, and 46.5% currently have a student debt balance that they owe. When asked whether this debt was affecting their ability to spend, 30.54% of survey respondents answered “very much”, and 30.40% answered “somewhat.” Less than one-quarter said student debt had no impact on their spending, and only 14.91% reported “very little” impact.
Nationwide the average student debt is $27,162 per individual, and the average millennial is paying about $317 per month towards loans. Employed millennials currently earn an average salary of $48,146, and take home $2,808 per month, assuming that they receive 70% of that salary after taxes and other expenses. A $317 monthly student loan payment eats up roughly 11.3% of this amount.
Note that the average student rent varies widely based on location. At an average of $39,832.12 per person, Washington, D.C.’s average outstanding student loan debt is the highest across all 50 states and the fourth-highest across all major U.S. cities, based on data gathered from My LendingTree’s 1.9 million account holders. Boston, at $43,102.16, Irvine, Calif., at $42,490.77, and San Francisco, at $39,963.43, all rank above Washington, D.C. ($39,806.71) at the city level. (An Excel spreadsheet of all city and state rankings in LendingTree’s study can be found here.)
With 11.3% or more shaved off the top of their salary, many millennials are delaying or even foregoing certain large purchases. More than half, 53.27%, have delayed travel plans for financial reasons, and 45.31% have delayed purchasing a home. Retirement savings and automobile purchases were also high on the list of things they aren't paying for. When asked what they would spend the student-loan funds on if hypothetically they did not have to pay these debts, over half of respondents prioritized building up emergency savings. Buying a home was also high on this list, at 41.76%, followed by retirement savings and travel.
For more than half of survey respondents said either the possibility or the reality of student loan debt was a major deciding factor in their life and education plans – or a major source of later regret. Some, 15.06%, did not go to a preferred school due to the cost of attendance. A larger amount, 29.05%, of respondents wished that they had attended a more affordable school, and 20.81% wished that they had studied something different. Other respondents,10.14%, felt they had paid for more education than was necessary and 10.41% regretted attending college at all.