Survey Data Shows The Impact of Student Loan Debt in America

Freedom Debt Relief
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— Freedom Debt Relief survey: Debt impacts finances, mental/emotional health, retirement of students and parents

San Mateo, Calif., Sept. 17, 2019 – Freedom Debt Relief has released results of a new survey detailing the impact of student loan debt on Americans’ finances, mental and emotional health, and retirement.

The results portray a population of college attendees/grads – and parents who are paying or having paid the cost of a college education – that is overwhelmed and struggling. As credit card, vehicle and medical debt continue to escalate, student loan debt adds a burden that has become a true crisis for many Americans.

Key survey findings include:

Student loan debt has created a crisis in America. With more than 44 million people carrying student loan debt of $1.6 trillion, 93% of college attendees/graduates, and 89% of parents, think this represents a financial crisis.

  • Financial stress is real. College attendees/grads rank student loan debt as the most stressful expense in their lives – over housing costs, credit card or vehicle debt, and medical costs. Sixty-seven percent said the cost of their college education has caused them to feel overwhelmed about their financial situation. Almost half (47%) said the cost has contributed to mental or emotional health issues, while 38% said it has caused them to lose sleep at night.
  • Student loan debt weighs heavily on finances and retirement. Fifty-nine percent of college attendees/grads said they can’t save any money because of the cost of their college education, 32% said they are carrying credit card debt because of college costs, and 48% said they have been unable to pay off (or down), or have delayed paying off (or down), other types of debt because of the cost of college. And, 43% believe their college education cost has impacted their retirement age.

The impact of student loan debt on parents’ lives and retirement plans is significant.

  • 37% said their child’s college education cost has caused them to feel overwhelmed about their financial situation.
  • 20% said their child’s college education cost has contributed to mental or emotional health issues of their own.
  • 20% said the cost has caused them to lose sleep at night.
  • 40% said the cost has impacted their retirement age; 41% said it has impacted their overall retirement plan.
  • 42% said they had given up saving for retirement; 42% gave up going on vacation; 31% gave up retiring when they initially desired. 


In addition, a third of parents surveyed said they cannot save any money because of the cost of their child’s college education. Twenty-two percent said they are carrying credit card debt because of their child’s college costs, and 40% said they have been unable to pay off (or down), or have delayed paying off (or down), other types of debt because of what they are paying towards their child’s cost of college. Close to a quarter (23%) believe their child’s college education cost has impacted their own credit scores.

Additional topics the survey addresses include the following.

  • Sacrifices colleges attendees/grads would make to eliminate their student loan debt
  • Lack of knowledge about loan types and terms
  • Amount of time individuals believe it will take to pay off the cost of their college education
  • Degree of support for student loan debt reform options

“The stark reality is that Americans are drowning in debt, with student loan debt creating a real crisis for many in their everyday finances, emotional and mental health, and retirement plans,” says Michael Micheletti, director of corporate communications for Freedom Debt Relief.“ The survey results confirm that student loan debt takes a toll on students, grads and parents, long after graduation and well down the road to retirement.”

The online poll, conducted by Atomik Research in July, surveyed 1,003 U.S. college attendees/graduates who are in the process of paying off the cost of college, and 503 are parents who are paying, or who have paid, toward the cost of their child’s college education.