Alumni Are Much More Likely to Believe Their Student Loans Were Worthwhile if They Agree Their College Provided Them With Support to Get a Good Job

Strada Education Network’s latest Public Viewpoint research finds that fewer than 4 in 10 Black alumni and less than half of Latino alumni feel that it was worth taking out their student loans—but strong career support boosts their assessment.
April 7, 2021

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INDIANAPOLIS — April 7, 2021 — Strada Education Network, a social impact organization dedicated to improving lives by forging pathways between education and employment, has released new findings from the nationally representative Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey, which asks adults about their experience with education and work.  

The survey finds that half of college alumni who took out student loans feel their loan was worth it, and that resources and support to find a good job were strongly linked to believing loans were worthwhile. In fact, help finding a good job had by far the greatest impact on an alum’s loan satisfaction—more than earning a degree, income, or debt level. Controlling for those other factors, alumni who strongly agreed their college provided good career support were eight times more likely than those who strongly disagreed to say their loans were worth it. Black alumni were especially likely to see more value in their loans if they received strong career support.

“In the public discourse about student loans, people spend a lot of time describing the debt, default, and income status of alumni, as if that was all we needed to know to address the challenges. However, when asked directly if they thought their student loans were worth it, alumni themselves identified strong support to connect education to a good job as key to making student loans worthwhile,” said Dr. Dave Clayton, Senior Vice President of Strada’s Center for Education Consumer Insights. “When colleges and universities provide strong career resources and support, perspectives on student loans shift dramatically, and racial and ethnic gaps in perceptions of value close.”

In general, Black and Latino alumni see less value in their loans. Fewer than 4 in 10 Black alumni (38 percent) and less than half (47 percent) of Latino alumni feel that it was worth taking out their student loans. Even holding loan amount, income, and attainment level equal, Black and Latino alumni are much less likely to feel it was worth taking out student loans compared to White or Asian alumni. But when support for getting a good job is strong, Black alumni (at 84 percent) are just as likely as White alumni to believe it was worth taking out student loans.

Across all groups, alumni who earned a bachelor’s (58 percent) or graduate degree (63 percent) were more likely to think their debt was worth it, while those who earned an associate degree were less likely (40 percent). Alumni who stopped out without completing—almost half of adults with college experience—were the least likely, at 32 percent, to say their debt was worth it.

The new findings come from the Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey, which was fielded by Gallup, Inc. from April 2020-Dec 2020. The survey was designed and commissioned by Strada Education Network’s Center for Education Consumer Insights, a research team that studies the experiences and perceptions of American adults in order to inform the development of a more learner-centered ecosystem. The center provides the nation’s largest education consumer database, which includes more than 350,000 completed surveys about the education and work experiences of American adults. View the full findings from this survey and past surveys at: https://www.stradaeducation.org/publicviewpoint/

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About Strada Education Network

Strada Education Network is a new kind of social impact organization dedicated to improving lives by forging clearer and more purposeful pathways between education and employment. Our approach combines innovative research, thought leadership, strategic philanthropy, mission-aligned investments and a network of affiliate organizations. Together, we work to better serve the millions of Americans seeking to complete postsecondary education and training, gain clear value from those experiences, and build meaningful careers. Learn more at stradaeducation.org.

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