Student Loan Debt Affects College Social Lives: Study

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COLLEGE STUDENT CAMPUS
Yale student Jonathan Desnick demonstrates how to use vuvuzelas in his dormitory building on the Yale campus in New Haven, Conn., Friday, Nov. 19, 2010. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) | AP

Students who don't have debt looming over their heads are more likely to party and live it up during their college years, an Indiana University study found.

Debt-free students spent less time studying, the study concluded, and more time invested in their social lives, extracurricular activities and partying. But they also networked and formed relationships that lasted beyond college.

"These patterns could affect the social connections and networking students develop in college, where these relationships can lead to friendships, employment, marriage partners and other benefits," IU sociology graduate student Daniel Rudel said in a news release. Rudel completed the research with Natasha Yurk, also a graduate student in the IU department of sociology.

The researchers reviewed data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen, housed in the Office of Population Research at Princeton University, that included survey responses from students at 28 selective institutions in the United States.

Parents are footing a smaller portion of the bill for college than they used to, according to a recent Sallie Mae-Ipsos Public Affairs survey, and students are relying on student loans as the third most common source of funding. A majority of students also work part-time jobs in college.

In the IU study, students with debt were more likely to be identified in one of two categories, "disengaged" or "serious student," Rudel and Yurk found. Serious students tended to study more, party less and join student organizations. Disengaged students spent little time on studying or other campus activities, viewing debt as a liability, according to the researchers.

The greater the total level of debt, the more likely a student is to be identified as a serious student, Inside Higher Ed reported in a story on the IU study.

But while some students with debt might be less likely to blow off schoolwork, the researchers were hesitant to suggest student debt was a positive thing for students.

"We're not saying that debt is good," Yurk told Inside Higher Ed. "We would never say people should have to take out debt."

Rather, Yurk said, their research shows indebted students are "missing some of the quintessential college experience."

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