Debt has some college students thinking about dropping out

jake blank
Jake Blank dropped out of Tulane University after his second year to avoid having to borrow another $150,000.

Some college students are having buyers' remorse.

Nearly half of current students said that they might drop out because they're worried about debt in a recent survey. And about the same number of former students said in the same survey, conducted by Citizens Financial, that they might not have gone to college at all if they had known how hard it would be to manage their student loans.

"I've had enough success outside of school that I don't think the debt is worth it, but some people are telling me otherwise," said Ben Yennie, a part-time student at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

Yennie, 27, has loans to cover tuition. Meanwhile, he found a job at a tech start-up that's taking off, so he'd like to ditch school altogether. He thinks it would be great to stop racking up debt, but knows that his job prospects may be limited without a degree.

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Jake Blank actually took the plunge and dropped out after his sophomore year at Tulane University, when his student debt hit $60,000. He lost his academic scholarship, so he would have needed another $150,000 in loans to finish school.

"That's essentially what prevented me from going back," said Blank, who's now 22.

Of course, plenty of students take on debt to get a degree. Forty million Americans now have at least one outstanding student loan, with an average balance of $29,000.

College 'can't just be for rich folks'
College 'can't just be for rich folks'

"Families will sacrifice everything they have to send their kids to a better school," said Stuart Ritter, a senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price.

But they really should be making a decision based on the value of the education.

"When you buy a car, you look at the price tag. We don't all go buy Lamborghinis," he said.

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And it's not just that families ignore costs when they choose a college. An incredible 54% of former students surveyed by Citizens said they never even talked with their parents about how they'd pay off their loans before they enrolled.

Brendan Coughlin, president of education finance at Citizens, advises students to look at a school's graduation rate, the employment rate for recent grads, and how much different majors are earning.

Blank is one of the lucky ones. A year after dropping out of Tulane, he has co-founded a new tech company and has paid off most of his loans.

"Doing it the way I did is unusual and it wasn't easy," he said, "but it worked for me."

Have you dropped out of college? Email to share your story.

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