How much college will cost and what’s involved in borrowing for it is a mystery to a large number of American high school seniors, according to a new CUNA poll.
The trade group conducted what it said was its first annual High School Student Borrowing Survey, polling 847 students nationwide, and found that nearly half didn’t know how much they would need to pay for their higher education.
The poll also found that 83% did not know what kind of interest rates they’d be paying for student loans and 77% didn’t know the loan durations they could expect to be taking on, CUNA said Wednesday.
But the 17- and 18-year-olds surveyed apparently don’t lack moxie. Seventy percent of them said they are confident they will land a high-paying job after they graduate.
CUNA also said of those who knew what they will owe after graduation, 15% said they will owe $10,000 or less; 22%, $11,000-$50,000; and 13%, more than $50,000.
That means opportunity for credit unions, the trade group said.
"Student lending is an important, growing segment of the credit union portfolio. The more credit unions pay attention to this emerging market, the more they can better service their members,” said Paul Gentile, CUNA executive vice president, strategic communications and engagement.
Credit unions typically offer better terms than for-profit lenders and have a better repayment record, with default rates at about 1.6%, compared with less than 6% for all private student loans and more than 12% for federal loans, the trade group said.
But there’s still the problem of basic knowledge about what the young borrowers are getting into when they take out the loans.
"These troubling findings suggest not just a lack of awareness of college cost or how debt works but also a lack of basic financial knowledge," Gentile said.
“The results suggest that some students could be challenged in managing basic expenses or using such payment tools as credit cards in a consistently responsible manner as they enter adulthood,” he said.
Gentile noted that CUNA is now lobbying for the government to allow student loans of longer duration than the current 15-year standard.
"The 15-year standard student loan made sense in years past when the total debt taken out was much lower," Gentile said.
"College is a lifetime investment. The value of a longer term is you can better structure the loan to allow for smaller payments in the early work years,” the CUNA EVP said.