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Varo Money ‘State of the Uni’ Survey: 37% of College Grads Feel Degree Wasn’t Worth the Student Loan Debt

by Varo Bank

September 13, 2018

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Survey also reveals that millennials are pragmatic: only 14% willing to be ‘starving artists,’ and 75% willing to ‘get a real job’ by age 40 if their dream career doesn’t pan out

SAN FRANCISCO — September 13, 2018 — As students from coast to coast prepare for the fall semester, Varo Money, Inc., the all-mobile banking startup that aims to helps its customers get ahead financially, has released the results of its “State of the Uni” Survey.

The survey of more than 1,000 college-educated U.S. adults age 18+, conducted by Propeller Insights on behalf of Varo Money in August of 2018, compared the outlook of American college graduates with those still pursuing degrees. The survey determined that those still in college are more optimistic about the value of their degree than those who have already graduated, that the appeal of the Ivy Leagues has more to do with prestige than quality of education, and that millennials are more money-minded than past generations.

Millennials are more pragmatic than we think

The majority of college-educated millennials are pursuing their passion, but still worry about their financial future:

  • The majority (62%) prioritize doing something they love over making good money
  • But 86% of those currently enrolled say it does matter that their degree lead to a good job
  • Just 14% are willing to be “starving artists” for more than five years
  • A full three-quarters say they will give up on their passion and “get a real job” by age 40 if things don’t pan out

This is far more pragmatic than older generations: 35% of baby boomers and 44% of seniors said they didn’t ever give up pursuing their passion.

“Our generation is facing an unprecedented set of financial challenges. For 25-34 years olds, home ownership is decreasing, income is stagnant, and debt has almost tripled since 1977. Growing up as millennials, we’ve been taught that money ‘doesn’t buy happiness’ and that we should pursue passions over paychecks. While that’s incredibly inspiring, it’s often in direct conflict with the realities we’re facing as a generation,” said Emily Brauer Gill, director of Brand & Communications at Varo Money. “At Varo, we know that people’s sense of self-worth is closely tied to their relationship with money, and we believe every person deserves respect from their banking institution for the hard work they're doing to get ahead."

The degree might not be worth the debt

Two-thirds (66%) of college-educated Americans took out some form of student loans — college graduates these days end up with an average of more than $37,000 in student loan debt — and the vast majority (85%) will be paying them off without help from their parents.

More than two-thirds (70%) of Gen Xers (35-54 years old) are still paying off their student loans. Of these, 34% will be paying them off for another 5-10 years; 21% will be paying them off for another 10-20 years; and 16% will be paying them off for 20+ years.

Is the degree worth the debt? Close to 40% of college graduates say “no.”

Meanwhile, 80% of students currently in college feel that their degree will be worth the debt.

...but the summer abroad might be

The vast majority (83%) of college-educated Americans feel that students should have a job while they’re in college, and about the same number (80%) worked while pursuing their degree.

A majority (61%) of American college students already have credit card debt, and, for all their future pragmatism, are willing to rack up, even more, to live well while in school. Top reasons include:

  • To gain financial independence from parents — 43%
  • To travel — 33%
  • To shop — 29%
  • To purchase interview attire — 29%
  • To have a nice apartment — 25%
  • To party — 18%

Back-to-school shopping is not one of the things that college students are willing to splurge on, however — a majority (69%) plan to spend less than $500 getting ready to go back to school, and another 18% hope to spend less than $100.

Ivy Leaguers get a leg-up

Three-quarters (75%) of college-educated Americans under 55 would have preferred to attend an Ivy League university, if given the opportunity. Fourteen percent of men and 13% of women said they would have preferred to go Ivy League in order to meet and marry someone with high earning potential, but the top reasons have more to do with prestige and post-graduation employment than quality of education:

  • Increased odds of landing a job post-graduation — 36%
  • Increased post-graduation earning potential — 35%
  • The prestige — 27%
  • Better quality of education — 24%
  • Amazing on-campus resources — 22%

Thirty-five percent of college-educated Americans admit that they are more impressed with people who have attended Ivy League universities, and about the same number (36%) would be more likely to hire someone with an Ivy League degree if making a hiring decision. This is truer of younger Americans than older ones — 43% of college graduates under 55 would give Ivy Leaguers preferential treatment compared to just 15% of those 55+.

About Varo Money

Varo Money, Inc. (“Varo”) combines mobile technology with a social mission to provide access to no-cost premium bank accounts through better service and automated savings tools.  We believe everyone has a right to high-quality banking at no cost regardless of net worth. In addition to premium banking products offered through The Bancorp Bank, Varo provides tech-first features to budget, track, and save money as a way to help people manage their money more easily. Varo serves customers without being tied to a branch and embraces technology to provide helpful banking relationships. Based in San Francisco and Utah and privately held, Varo has raised $79M to date, led by Warburg Pincus. Varo Personal Loan and Varo Backup Line are offered by Varo Money, Inc., under state licenses, subject to application approval. For more information, please visit and follow Varo on Instagram @varomoney, Facebook @varomoney or Twitter @varomoney.

Varo Bank Accounts are provided by The Bancorp Bank, Member FDIC. Deposits are FDIC-insured up to $250,000 through The Bancorp Bank.

Press Contacts

Catherine New

[email protected]

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