Can Carrying Debt Make You A Better Student?

Haunted by that student loan you took out for your degree? Don't be. Here's something to make you feel better: a new study has found that debt is a central factor in shaping students' university experience, with indebted students less likely to choose a partying lifestyle. The Indiana University study is one of the first studies to look at the effect of loans on student experience.

The study, led by sociologists Daniel Rudel and Natasha Yurk, divided students into three categories based on debt. "Play hard" students are those without any debt. These lucky kids have the richest of social lives, getting involved in lots of extracurricular activities and forming relationships that last past graduation — but spending less time studying.

"Disengaged" students see their debt as something that holds them back from partaking in college life. They don't really spend any time on campus outside of class time.

And then there are the "serious" students, seemingly the ultimate campus stars, who see their debt as a challenge rather than a barrier. Apart from partying like crazy, these students seem to do it all: they work, participate in extracurricular activities, and study more than both other categories of students.

The study looked at data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen in the Office of Population Research at Princeton University. This data was collected from 1999 to 2003 from 28 different U.S. higher education institutions, including liberal arts colleges, private research universities, and public research universities.

Previous research has shown that financial issues play an important part in a student's success. Although having to take on part-time employment means more time away from campus, it could also be an important factor in teaching students about juggling responsibilities. It seems the clinching factor could be how universities tackle students' financial situations.

Rudel suggested universities look over their programs to see how they can accommodate different financial obligations. "We aren't saying what college students should or should not be doing," he explained "But the lifestyles of students with debt diverge from the script people have of what college should be like." Seems we might end up being thankful for our student loans after all.

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