- Two-thirds of employees report regrets about their advanced degrees, as Americans question the high cost of higher education.
- Student loan debt has ballooned to nearly $1.6 trillion nationwide in 2019, topping the list of regrets for employees.
- Science, technology, engineering or math majors, who are more likely to enjoy higher salaries, were least likely to report regrets, while those in the humanities were most likely.
A college education is still considered a pathway to higher lifetime earnings and gainful employment for Americans. Nevertheless, two-thirds of employees report having regrets when it comes to their advanced degrees, according to a PayScale survey of 248,000 respondents this past spring that was released Tuesday.
Student loan debt, which has ballooned to nearly $1.6 trillion nationwide in 2019, was the No. 1 regret among workers with college degrees. About 27% of survey respondents listed student loans as their top misgiving, PayScale said.
The findings illustrate why education loans burdening millions of Americans have become a hot-button issue among some Democratic presidential candidates. Most recently, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday proposed a plan toand use the proceeds to erase that $1.6 trillion of debt.
About 70% of college students, averaging about $33,000 per student. And as younger grads pay off student loan balances, they're struggling to accumulate wealth or are putting off purchasing homes — some millennials are even .
It's not just millennials. Baby boomers are taking on student loan debt either to help cover college costs for their children or to retrain themselves for a workplace transformed by increased automation, cloud computing and other labor-saving technologies. Some Americans age 62 and older are using their Social Security benefits to pay off.
College debt was followed by chosen area of study (12%) as a top regret for employees, though this varied greatly by major. Other regrets include poor networking, school choice, too many degrees, time spent completing education and academic underachievement.
Most satisfied: Those with science, technology, engineering and math majors, who are typically more likely to enjoy higher salaries, reported more satisfaction with their college degrees. About 42% of engineering grads and 35% of computer science grads said they had no regrets.
Most regrets: Humanities majors, who are least likely to earn higher pay post-graduation, were most likely to regret their college education. About 75% of humanities majors said they regretted their college education. About 73% of graduates who studied social sciences, physical and life sciences, and art also said the same.
In the middle: In between the other two categories were 66% of business graduates, 67% of health sciences graduates and 68% of math graduates who said they regretted their education.
At least one sector of employment bucked the trend: Teachers and other professionals in education, which isn't typically a high-paying profession, were the second-least likely, after engineering grads, to have any regrets tied to their major, with 37% saying they had no regrets.
Broken down by generation, older Americans were more likely to report that they have no regrets about their education. Among baby boomers, or 51% said they have no college regrets, making them the only demographic with a majority reporting no regrets. In contrast, just 37% of Gen Xers and nearly 29% of millennials reported no regrets.
Millennials, who are most disappointed with their college education, have the highest number of employees regretting their student loans. About 29% of millennials regret their student loans, while only 26% of Gen Xers and just 13% of baby boomers regret the loads they took on for college.
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