Nearly half of college grads with student loan debt don't think their college degree helped them earn more money

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Only 36% of indebted individuals think they make a higher salary as a result of their college degree.

A college degree doesn't necessarily lead to higher earnings.

At least, that's the case for some graduates. A new survey from Insider and Morning Consult polled 2,096 Americans about their financial health, debt, and earnings for a new series, "The State of Our Money." Of these respondents, 17% have undergrad student-loan debt and 7.5% have graduate student-loan debt.Advertisement

For those with undergrad student-loan debt, this might be influenced by how stressed they are about their debt.

More than half (54%) of respondents who have a lot of stress about their undergrad student-loan debt don't think they make more money because of their college degree. Just a third of people who have some or a lot of stress about their undergrad loans think they make more money because of their college degree.

The cost of college can be higher than the salary you'll make

College value is becoming increasingly relevant in time when college tuition has more than doubled since the 1980s, the student loan debt national total exceeds $1.5 trillion, and student debt is at a record high of nearly $30,000 per borrower in the graduating class of 2018.

The Department of Education's College Scorecard program indicates that graduating students from the most expensive schools (four-year colleges and universities with at least 500 undergrads) typically earn the highest salaries 10 years after enrolling in college. But median salary and average cost of attendance don't always align.Advertisement

"For example, the University of Chicago has the highest cost of attendance: $70,100. But its graduates go on to earn $68,100 a decade after setting foot on campus," Lebowitz wrote. "And students at Occidental College pay $67,046 a year, but only earn $50,600 a decade later, meaning the school is one of the most expensive - and graduates' salaries are some of the lowest."

That's still more than what the average millennial earns - $35,455, just slightly more than the average student-loan debt. It might explain why, in a recent survey by personal finance company SoFi, nearly half of millennials (42%) said the biggest mistake they made with their student loans was overestimating the salary of their first job out of college and assuming they'd be able to afford their monthly payments.