Those Damn Millennials Don’t Really Understand Their Student Loans

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Photo: John Tlumacki

Last we heard of millennials, they were supposedly too lazy to eat cereal, not cool enough to eschew exercising in favor of partying, and refusing to be swayed by Big Napkin. But the real story uniting Americans between the ages of 18 and 35, despite every trend piece that expresses disdain for millennial Snapchat addiction, is their crushing student debt.

A new (albeit small) survey by TNS Research, in conjunction with Citizens Bank, found that millennials have at best a tenuous understanding of their student loans. According to the survey of 501 millennials with student debt, “Nearly six in 10 millennials report underestimating their monthly payments, 45% do not know how much of their annual salary they spend on their loans, and more than one-third don’t even know what their interest rate is.” And that’s not the worst of it: 44 percent of the millennials surveyed said they don’t understand the difference between federal and private loans.

What could be the reason for this wholesale misunderstanding of what student loans are? One might suggest the near-universal encouragement for barely legal kids of the early 2000s to go to whatever college they chose, even if they couldn’t afford it.

One outcome of this college push reveals itself in the Citizens Bank study: Over a third of the graduates surveyed said they would have rethought going to college in the first place if they were aware of the costs from the start. Hey, at least employers are starting to offer student-loan aid as a benefit. That’s a start, right?