How to Avoid Regrets Over Borrowing Too Much for College


The total amount of student debt nationwide is estimated at $1.26 trillion, making it a problem worth considering. Now, a recent survey has found that many students actually regretted borrowing - because they borrowed too much.

The survey, conducted by the Harris Poll in behalf of NerdWallet, found that nearly half of students who pursued higher education with the help of student loans say they should have borrowed less because they can afford college even with a smaller debt. Many of them also say they should have taken advantage of free money in the form of grants and other scholarships.

"People believe they didn't apply for enough scholarships when they had the chance," Brianna McGurran, a student-loan expert at NerdWallet told CNBC. "I don't think students are putting in the time they need" to research other college-financing options.

The survey had 522 participating students aged 18 and above. Here are some of the survey's key findings:

  • Nearly half (48%) of undergraduates who made student loans said they could have borrowed less and still be able to afford college;
  • Borrowers borrowed an average $11,597 more than what they actually needed for undergraduate study;
  • Among those who said they could have borrowed less, 31% said they borrowed at least $15,000 more than what really needed, and 42% said they overborrowed by $10,000 or more.
  • Genders also play a role in the amount of excess amounts borrowed. Among those who said they should have borrowed less, men said they borrowed an excess of $9,915, while women said they borrowed $13,455 more than what they need.
  • Nearly a third (31%) of undergraduate borrowers said they regret not applying for any or more scholarships.

Preparation is Key

Mark Huelsman, senior policy analyst at left-leaning think tank Demos, said this problem could be caused by students' not knowing what they're in for when they take out a student loan.

"There's actually not a great understanding among student borrowers about the total amount they owe until they get out of school," Huelsman said.

George Leef, research director from the Pope Center, stresses that there's a need for students to receive proper counseling before making any student loan. Thankfully, the department of education is launching an experiment to test-drive the effectiveness of additional student counseling in regard to loans.

McGurran suggests that to help college-bound students minimize loan borrowing, they should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA); prioritize federal student loans before private loans; and consider their college costs long before applying.

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