More millennials regret college debt as pandemic kills their jobs

Since the pandemic hit the country, a growing number of millennial college graduates regret going into debt to pay for their education.

Over a quarter (26%) of millennial college graduates said their college time “definitely” wasn’t worth their student loans; that’s up from 19% from polling done in 2019, according to Morning Consult, a data intelligence company.

The survey also found that nearly half of millennials, 45%, say that their college education isn’t worth their debt, compared with 42% who said the same in 2019.

Millennials are “the least-likely generation to look back on their student debt and college degrees favorably,” the survey states.

These findings do not shock Bruce McClary, a senior vice president of communications at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, an organization that assists college graduates who are struggling with student loan repayments.

“It’s not surprising that students who invested in a college education may be regretting that investment,” he said.

A reason behind the increase in regret is that many within this generation took nontraditional jobs that evaporated during the pandemic. Meanwhile, they collectively owe roughly half a trillion dollars in student loans that remain due.

McClary’s organization has seen college graduates who are struggling to make ends meet wishing they had the money back that they spent on their education.

“That’s what we’re seeing in terms of college graduates and how they feel about their investment in college, especially those who borrowed to cover the cost of their education,” he said.

Millennials have essentially been cursed regarding wealth accumulation since entering the job market.

The generation was born between 1980 and 1994. This means many of them entered the job market while the economy was in a recession or recovering from one, which put downward pressure on their ability to accumulate wealth.

While well-educated, many of them took jobs that didn’t require a college degree. Millennials make up a huge share of the workforce in hair salons, bars, and restaurants, according to Business Insider. They also make up a large portion of gig workers, according to Gig Economy.

Then, the pandemic hit, which devastated the economy and shut down the industries rife with millennials.

The closings affected millennials “more than their counterparts in terms of job loss,” Morning Consult stated in a separate poll from the one mentioned above.

“Many millennials were scrappy enough to figure out how to supplement their incomes with nontraditional work arrangements, particularly through the gig economy and other forms of self-employment. Unfortunately for them, these arrangements were the easiest to restructure during the pandemic,” said Morning Consult economist John Leer when releasing the survey.

Looking ahead, McClary said the road to recovery for millennials is tied to how the job market performs, which is uncertain due to the pandemic.

“The environment in the job market remains disrupted without clarity of what the future might look like,” he said.

Despite the plight facing millennials, college graduates still earn a wage premium. In 2018, the latest date for which data was available, bachelor’s degree holders earned roughly $77,000, on average, compared to $45,000 for high school graduates.

And while the cost of college has outpaced inflation over the years, the economic benefits of receiving a higher education still outweigh that cost, according to a 2019 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

“While the rising cost of college may be troubling, it has not yet changed the basic calculus as to whether earning a college degree is worth it. The benefits still outweigh the costs,” the report stated.