Survey Shows the Impact of Student Loan Debt on Americans’ Major Life Choices and the Future of the Economy

82% say student loans have caused difficulties in their lives; Nearly half are looking to employers for help

WATERTOWN, Mass., May 16, 2016 — A new survey released today shows that student loan debt is affecting people’s lives in unexpected ways – and the entire economy as a result. From newly- minted grads to Baby Boomers nearing retirement, 72 percent of people with student debt say it impacts their life every day, and 77 percent say it’s made it more difficult to “live my life the way I want.” With 35 percent of job openings expected to require at least a bachelor’s degree by 2020 1, this new data suggests a troubling outlook for current and future generations of borrowers and their employers.    

The survey, which was commissioned by EdAssist®, a division of Bright Horizons Family Solutions®, and conducted by Kelton Global, shows that while student loan debt is certainly costing people financially, there is a lot more than money at stake.

As a result of student loan debt, the survey found, employees are passing up their dream jobs and giving up on future education:

  • Nearly half (49 percent) said they're so stressed, they'd prefer help with school debt over budgeting (30 percent), credit card debt (28 percent), and even retirement (42 percent). And 47 percent are looking for help from employers when searching for a new job.
  • 85 percent would like to earn additional degrees, but more than three in five (64 percent) say their current debt would prevent them from doing so.
  • While 37 percent have been forced to give up their dream jobs completely, more than half (58 percent) say debt would force them into jobs just for higher pay, and 33 percent said they would take any job they could get just to pay off their loans.

“Rather than opening up pathways to success, in some cases, these big education bills are having the reverse effect,” says Chris Duchesne, Vice President at EdAssist. “The amount of student debt people are carrying is costing them in dreams and ambition, and potentially costing employers in creativity, innovation, and the next big idea.” 

The EdAssist survey uncovered a multitude of additional ways student loan debt is upending the lives and careers of Americans across all generations. Eighty-two percent of people with student loans admit it’s caused difficulties in their lives and is holding them back from achieving significant life milestones, like buying a car (56 percent), house (50 percent) or opening a credit card (41 percent). Forty-nine percent would delay engagement or marriage due to debt, and 21 percent are struggling to start a family. Seventy-eight percent of people with student loan debt say it has limited their ability to save for retirement.

Additional key findings show:

  • 77 percent of people have had a personal relationship negatively affected by student loan debt.
  • 73 percent of Gen Xers with student debt say it impacts their life every day.
  • 79 percent of Millennials with debt say it has made it more difficult to “live my life the way I want.”
  • 78 percent of Baby Boomers carrying their own debt say it's affected their ability to save for retirement.
  • 54 percent of men feel debt has limited their career choices, versus 47 percent of women.

“Many people see student loan debt as a millennial problem, but disturbingly, it isn’t,” said John Eshleman, Manager of Benefits, Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, Texas, which offers student loan repayment benefits to employees. “Between taking on debt for dependents and the high demand for graduate degrees in today’s workforce, people of all ages are carrying student loan debt. As an employer, we want to see our employees lead happy and fruitful lives. With the amount of debt degree-holding individuals are facing today, we feel it is right from a recruitment and retention perspective to help ease this burden for our employees.”

For more detail and analysis of the survey findings, see the EdAssist report “Student Loan Debt: Who’s Paying the Price?”

About the EdAssist “Student Loan Debt: Who’s Paying the Price?” Study

The survey was fielded by independent research company Kelton Global in April 2016. The responses were generated from a survey of 1,024 Americans 18+ with student loan debt. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

About EdAssist

EdAssist®, a division of Bright Horizons Family Solutions®, is a leading provider of tuition assistance and student loan repayment services for large employers. By aligning education programs with talent goals, EdAssist helps drive measurable improvements to recruitment, retention, and employee engagement. The company’s unique approach to program management includes a software platform for streamlining program administration, expert advisors who guide employees to the best educational and financial decisions, and discounts from more than 200 accredited educational institutions.

About Kelton Global

Kelton Global is a research consultancy that transforms rich insights into actionable strategic plans. Kelton integrates market research, cultural insights, branding, communications, and design to move brands confidently into the future. With offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and London, Kelton is proud to work with more than 100 of the Fortune 500 companies and thousands of other well-loved brands. For more information, please visit

1 Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements through 2020, June 26, 2013