Through the past decade, debt has become increasingly common for college students throughout the U.S. According to FinAid.org, the amount of student loan debt among graduating college seniors averaged more than $23,000 in 2008. According to student lender Sallie Mae, graduating seniors with at least one credit card owed an average of $4,138 on the card.
In spite of the stress that most people experience after accumulating a large amount of debt, a recent study by Ohio State University indicates that college students may actually view their educational debt in a positive light, even feeling "empowered" by it.
The Ohio State University study was published in the journal Social Science Research and involved a survey of 3,079 students. The majority of the students surveyed were in their early- to mid-20s. The survey showed that young adults aged 18 to 27 had higher self esteem and felt more in control of their lives in conjunction with higher educational debt.
Older college graduates who were surveyed, specifically those aged from 28 to 34, seemed to have a slightly different take on educational debt, showing some signs of stress. These graduates have put more distance between themselves and college and are experiencing more of the burden of repaying their debt, as opposed to the afterglow of their graduation and beginning of their first post-college job.
The study's findings were consistent with earlier research suggesting that student loans can represent the cost of opportunity for some students, therefore placing this debt in a positive light. The same theory may apply to credit card debt accumulated for educational purposes, from buying books to buying a nice suit to wear to a job interview.
"In spite of many cautionary signposts," the study concluded, "young people appear to be more likely to see debt as an investment rather than a burden as they begin their transition to adulthood."
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