More data are pouring in confirming that college students are in over their heads - at least from a financial point of view. According to Fidelity Investments' second Cost-Conscious College Graduates Study, released Friday, 70% of the college Class of 2013 owes, on average, $35,000 in student loan debt private and public, as well as debt owed on credit cards and from family loans. That amount would get you a brand-new Audi A5 2.0T Quattro manual premium automobile or 10% down on a $350,000 house. But $35,000 is also a down payment on a presumed lifetime of higher earnings, as study after study shows that college graduates make more money than non-college graduates. What's disturbing is that college graduates didn't see this burden coming -- the Fidelity study says that about 50% of new college grads are surprised by how much student loan debt they own and 39% of college graduates would have made different choices if they realized how much debt they'd pile up. That's 14% higher than the first Cost Conscious Study last year.
According to Fidelity, if college graduates had it all to do over again, they would have:
- Saved money as early as possible.
- Been more diligent about researching financial aid options.
- Kept a closer eye on their budgets and spending while in college.
But the real narrative coming out of the Fidelity study is that "surprise" factor. If college students and their families don't see a $35,000 debt storm coming, that suggests they never had a financial plan in the first place.