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Student Loans Reports

70% of Millennials Believe U.S. Student Loan Debt Poses Bigger Threat to U.S. Than North Korea

The year may be different, but 2017 presents many of the same vexing issues, both at home and abroad, that have plagued the United States for years.

War in the Middle East rages on, Washington D.C., and the entire country for that matter, remains fiercely divided along party lines, and for every threat that is quelled, it seems three more arise.

One of the most under-talked-about problems in the U.S. right now is the student loan debt crisis. According to LendEDU, 43.3 million borrowers in the U.S. collectively hold an outstanding student loan debt totaling $1.41 trillion.

60 percent of Americans graduate college with student debt, and on average, each borrower owes $28,400. The average default rate on federal student loans sits at 11.8 percent.

All this being said, the $1.41 trillion in outstanding student loan debt is still a ways off from the $10.6 trillion in mortgage debt during the peak of the Great Recession. However, student debt in the U.S. is now the second largest class of debt, above credit cards.

LendEDU wanted to see how millennials, the largest living generation in the world, thought the student loan debt crisis in the U.S. stacked up against other serious threats that the country will be dealing with in the coming years.

LendEDU commissioned a poll that asked 515 millennials with student debt the following: “What is a bigger problem facing the United States?”


Millennials were nearly split down the middle in terms of deciding if global warming or the student loan crisis is the biggest problem facing the U.S.

250 millennials, or 48.5 percent, think the $1.41 trillion student loan crisis is a more serious issue for the U.S. than global warming is.

The remaining 265 respondents, or 51.5 percent, believe global warming is a bigger threat facing this country.

Considering millennial’s thoughts on global warming, this poll produced some mildly surprising results. In a poll conducted by the University of Texas at Austin in the fall of 2016, 91 percent of millennials believed climate change is occurring, the highest percentage ever. For reference, 74 percent of seniors aged 65 and older said climate change is occurring.

Millennials represent the generation that most staunchly believes in global warming, and this will be the demographic that will lead the fight against climate change in the coming years.

The fact that virtually half of them believe the student loan crisis is a more serious threat to the U.S. than global warming, which may wipe out entire cities, is a telling indication of the severity of this country’s educational debts.

The second question of LendEDU’s poll posed the following question to 544 millennials: “What is a bigger problem facing the United States?”

Unlike the first question regarding global warming, millennials left no doubt that they think the student loan crisis is a bigger threat to the U.S. than is North Korea.

379 participants, or 69.7 percent, think the $1.41 trillion student loan debt situation is a bigger threat than North Korea.

On the other side, 165 millennials, or 30.3 percent, believe North Korea poses more of a threat than does the student loan crisis.

One could make a strong argument that North Korea presents the greatest international threat to the U.S. At this point, many foreign policy experts believe it is a case of “when,” and not “if,” the North Koreans develop a long-range nuclear missile that could reach the U.S. mainland.

That being said, more than two times the amount of millennials still believe the student loan crisis poses a bigger threat to the U.S. than the rogue regime of North Korea, a testament to just how serious this nation’s student loan debt crisis is.


The poll was commissioned by LendEDU and conducted by online polling company, Whatsgoodly.

In total, 515 current college students were polled from June 2, 2017 to June 14, 2017 for the first question. For the second question, 544 current college students were polled from June 2, 2017 to June 14, 2017.

Respondents were allowed to participate in the poll if they currently were holding student debt. The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that there are 20.5 million current college students in the United States. We estimate that our sample is representative of that population within a margin of error of +-4.30%, and +-4.20%, respectively.

Respondents were asked to answer each of the following questions truthfully: “What is the bigger problem facing the United States?” (global warming or $1.4 trillion student loan crisis) and “What is the bigger problem facing the United States?” (North Korea or $1.4 trillion student loan crisis)

See more of LendEDU’s Research