SOURCE: Ohio State University, news release, July 1, 2015
WEDNESDAY, July 15, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Most college students are worried about money and whether they can pay their tuition, a new survey shows.
Despite that, many of them feel optimistic about their financial future and think their higher education is a worthwhile investment, the researchers added.
"This survey was designed to give a more comprehensive picture of the financial lives of students beyond just their debt levels and loans," study co-author Bryan Ashton, an assistant director of Ohio State University's Student Life Student Wellness Center in Columbus, said in a university news release." We wanted to find out more about how they were managing their financial lives on a daily basis."
The survey included almost 19,000 undergraduate students from 52 colleges and universities across the United States.
The researchers found 70 percent of those polled are stressed about their finances, and almost 60 percent are concerned about being able to paying for school. The money troubles don't end there. The national survey also found that 50 percent of college students are worried about paying their monthly bills.
In some cases, this financial pressure interfered with their education. Of the students surveyed, 32 percent reported neglecting their studies at least sometimes because of the money they owed. Three out of 10 students had to reduce the number of classes they took, 16 percent had to take time off and 13 percent had to transfer to another school because of the money they owed.
"The number of students feeling financial stress is striking," study co-author Anne McDaniel, who is associate director of research and data management at the university's Center for the Study of Student Life, said in the news release.
"We need to help students manage their stress so they can be conscientious about their financial decisions, but not so overwhelmed that it hurts their academics or health," added study co-author Catherine Montalto, an associate professor of human sciences at Ohio State.
Despite feeling stressed about financial woes, more than 75 percent of the students surveyed believe their college education is a wise investment in their future and that they will be able to support themselves after graduation. Nearly 80 percent said they believed they would be able to pay off any debt they accumulated while they were in school, and 67 percent said that when they considered their finances they felt optimistic about the future.
"Students feel good about their decision to go to college and think it will pay off in the end," Montalto said.
The survey also revealed that 64 percent of the students polled used loans to help fund their college education. Students who felt a college degree would increase their future earning potential were more willing to borrow money to pay for it.
While many students relied on their parents or relatives to pay for their books or housing, up to 19 percent primarily used loans to cover these costs. Among the students with loans, about 30 percent owed less than $10,000, but 20 percent owed more than $30,000.
Of the students surveyed, 24 percent expected to have between $30,000 and $50,000 in student loan debt, 14 percent expected to owe between $50,000 and $80,000, and 7 percent thought they would owe more than $80,000.
The researchers found many students borrowed as much as they were allowed.
"About 30 percent of students with loans said they borrowed the maximum amount for which they qualify each year, which may not always be the best choice," McDaniel said. "But the good news is that about half the students with loans said they tried to borrow as little as possible."
Credit card debt posed less of an issue for the students. About 43 percent of those surveyed don't have a credit card. Nearly half of those who do have one pay their balance in full every month. Of the students who do carry a balance, 55 percent owe less than $1,000. The researchers noted that 8 percent of the students owe more than $3,000 after meeting their monthly payments.
The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides more information on paying for college.