The painful post-graduation hangover not from last night’s party

College grads are waking up the day after graduation to a nasty hangover and stinging slap of reality. Yes, the last four years were a fantastic experience. But, wow, they were expensive.

Some recent betweenthenumbers posts have explored the cost-benefit tradeoff of a college education (see here and here). Researchers are not the only ones who are questioning higher education’s value added. So are college graduates.

Forbes reported on a Wells Fargo study which found that nearly a third of millennials regret going to college. They identify debt as their number one concern. And that debt burden is forcing them to delay basic life events such as buying a car, getting married, and purchasing a home.

Ballooning student debts are well documented. Student borrowing now exceeds $100 billion. And total outstanding student loans in the U.S. exceed credit card debt (over $1 trillion versus about $800 billion). But widespread regret over these loans seems to be surfacing only more recently.

This surfacing is a good thing.  American culture has largely cast college as life’s necessary next step no matter how great the cost.  When buyers start announcing they regret their purchases, other potential buyers take note.  Prospective students may now begin viewing college more as an optional purchase that requires some careful scrutiny or as an investment that must either yield positive return or be passed over entirely.  Such forethought would lessen buyer’s remorse and lighten the hangovers.

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