Yes, Student Debt is Dramatically Affecting Millennials' Lives

42% Say Debt Affected Major Purchases, 28% Say Debt Affected Life Decisions

June 30, 2015

Mountain View, CA — Here are some things we know about Millennials: they have record amounts of student debt. They are renting or sharing, rather than buying. And they are pushing major life milestones, such as marriage, back further than ever.

While each of these statistics has myriad causes and effects, a new survey from the online education website finds that high levels of student debt has had a widespread and persistent impact on how many Millennials live their lives.

View our infographic or the rest of the survey below:

Infographic: Study shows student debt affects Millennials for years after graduation.
Student Debt Affects Grads' Lives for Years

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In a recent online survey of college graduates age 21-35, found that the burden of heavy student debt affected:

  • What kind of job Millennials took after graduating from college – 22%
  • Where they lived after graduating from college – 30%
  • Relationships with their friends after college – 13%
  • Major purchases like a car or a house – 42%
  • Major life decisions such as marriage or having children – 28%

An additional 32% reported that the cost of tuition and the prospect of debt affected where they decided to go for college in the first place.

Figure 1A: How student debt has impacted the lives of Millennials
College tuition and how much debt I took on impacted [Millenials] also conducted a similar survey with a cross-section of college-graduate Baby Boomers. As the chart below indicates, Boomers' lives were relatively unaffected by the student debt they took on.

Figure 1B: How student debt impacted the lives of Baby Boomers
College tuition and how much debt I took on impacted [Boomers]

The average student debt load itself is now markedly higher than it has been in previous generations. As the survey found, 51% of Millennial graduates left school with more than $10,000 in debt. When adjusted for inflation, only 26% of Baby Boomers graduated with an equivalent amount. Only 38% of Millennials managed to graduate debt-free, while 57% of Boomers did.

Figure 2A and 2B: How much debt college graduates are leaving school with, by percent (top, Millennials; bottom, Baby Boomers)
Percent debat graduated with [Millenials]

Percent debat graduated with [Baby Boomers/Not Inflation Adjusted]

This might help explain why 39% of Millennial respondents agreed that they graduated with a lot of debt, which they felt would be hard to pay off. Only 15% of Baby Boomer respondents agreed with this statement.

Figure 3: Rating of whether respondents agree with the statement that they graduated with a lot of debt that would be hard to pay off (left, Millennials; right, Baby Boomers)
Debt to pay off

Furthermore, a full 79% of Millennial respondents agree that student loans are a problem for young people in general, with only 4% of respondents disagreeing.

Figure 4: Millennials' response to whether they believe that student loans are a major problem for young people
Loans are a problem for young people

Part of the solution for the student debt crisis might lie in clarifying student debt terms, or better clarifying to college students what debt burdens entail. The survey found that only 20% of Millennials said they understood college finances (including tuition costs and student debt) well when they first began school. Almost half – 49% -- responded that they had understood college finances "not well" or "not well at all."

Figure 5:
When you began college, how well did you understand college finances?'s survey was completed online between June 11 and June 24, 2015 with 200 respondents in each age sample. Respondents who were part of the "Millennials" sample ranged in age from 21 – 35, while Baby Boomers ranged from age 50-65.

About is the largest, most extensive online learning site. We are on a mission to make education accessible to everyone. As a top resource for over 15 million students a month, we offer a place where students can study any subject, prepare for any exam, and earn college credit transferrable to over 2,000 institutions. We have a massive video library of over 10,000 short, fun, and engaging lessons perfect for any audience at any grade level. Additionally, offers guidance counseling in order to help students save money and make informed decisions about their education and careers.

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