44% of Student Borrowers Considered Dropping Out Due to Financial Burden

A majority of students say they've made sacrifices in life to lessen the financial burden of school.

July 14, 2022 · Updated on July 14, 2022

44% of Student Borrowers Considered Dropping Out Due to Financial Burden
Survey Reports

  • 55% of current students with student loans also use grants and/or scholarships to pay for school.
  • 52% of students with loans say they also got a job or side hustle to lessen the financial burden of college.
  • 45% of students with federal loans anticipate at least some of their debt will be forgiven.

The financial burden of college is making current student loan borrowers think twice about whether to continue their educational journeys. In a new BestColleges survey of 409 currently enrolled college students with federal and/or private student loans, 44% say they've considered dropping out due to the financial burdens of school.

Though nearly an equal percentage (40%) of student borrowers have not considered dropping out, two-thirds (66%) say they've made sacrifices in life to lessen the financial burden of college.

First-generation college students who have borrowed loans are significantly more likely to say they've considered dropping out of school than students who have at least one parent with a college degree (50% vs. 36%). First-generation students are also more likely to say that they've made sacrifices in their life to lessen the financial burden of their education (71% vs. 59%).

Despite having made sacrifices and considered dropping out, over half (53%) of student borrowers say they are satisfied with the college-related financial decisions they have made . Many (55%) are also confident they will be able to make student loan payments when they're scheduled to begin based on their anticipated earnings after graduation. Only 18% are not confident that they will be able to make their payments once they start.

Almost half (45%) of current students with federal loans say they anticipate that at least some of their student loan debt will be forgiven. Only about a quarter (26%) of these students don't think this will be the case.

Student Borrowers Also Commonly Use Grants and Scholarships to Pay for School

The majority of current students who have used federal and/or private loans to pay for college also say they've used grants and/or scholarships to pay for college.

Just over a third of student borrowers also say they've used their own savings or income (36%) and family or parent savings/income (36%) to pay for school.

Female student loan borrowers are significantly more likely to say they've also used grants and/or scholarships to pay for college than male student loan borrowers (59% vs. 49%).

BIPOC student loan borrowers are more likely than white student loan borrowers to say they've also used grants and/or scholarships to pay for college (60% vs. 51%).

However, student borrowers attending predominantly white institutions (PWIs) are significantly more likely than those attending minority-serving institutions (MSIs) to say they've also used grants and/or scholarships to pay for college (61% vs. 44%).

This comes as no surprise as the majority of BIPOC students attend PWIs and tuition costs at PWIs are often higher than costs at MSIs.

Minority-serving institutions are colleges and universities that support communities that have been historically excluded from accessing higher education. MSIs include historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-serving institutions, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions, and Tribal colleges or universities.

First-generation student borrowers are significantly less likely than student borrowers who have at least one parent with a college degree to say they've also used parent or family savings/income to pay for college (27% vs. 47%).

Most Student Borrowers Have Taken Steps to Lessen the Financial Burden of School

The overwhelming majority (94%) of current students who have used federal and/or private loans to pay for college also say they've taken at least one step to lessen the financial burden of their college education. A little more than half (52%) say they've negotiated, compared, or declined excess financial aid award packages to lessen the financial burden.

Female student loan borrowers are significantly more likely than male borrowers to say they got a job/side hustle while in school (56% vs. 45%) and they applied/are applying for private scholarships (42% vs. 33%) to lessen the financial burden of college.

White student borrowers are significantly more likely than BIPOC loan borrowers to say they got a job/side hustle while in school (58% vs. 46%) and they applied/are applying for private scholarships (43% vs. 33%)..

Student borrowers who attend PWIs are significantly more likely than those attending MSIs to say they got a job/side hustle while in school (59% vs. 44%) and they applied/are applying for private scholarships (48% vs. 32%) to lessen this burden.

Some current students with loans additionally say they made specific choices to lessen the financial burden of school when selecting what type of school to attend, what types of classes to take, and housing options.

Nearly half (45%) of student loan borrowers say they chose a college closer to home vs. farther away to lessen the financial burden of school.

An almost equal number of student borrowers (43%) say they chose a public college over a private one to lessen the financial burden of school.

While it's clear that students with loans took a variety of steps to minimize the financial burden of their education, they still hold debt they're expected to start repaying soon. They advise other prospective students making financial decisions about their education to "be thoughtful," "save up," "borrow as little as possible," and "always weigh your options."

Methodology

The survey was conducted from May 31-June 3, 2022. Student respondents were fielded by Lucid LLC. Survey participants included 409 currently enrolled, first-time undergraduate students nationwide. Respondents were 18-26 years of age, enrolled at a college or university, and pursuing a bachelor's or associate degree. The respondents for the survey were screened by various quality checks, including systems like Relevant ID, and responses were manually reviewed to ensure consistency and accuracy.