As Student Debt Triples, College Becomes a True Team Effort

TD Ameritrade survey sheds light on the modern college experience

The Modern College Experience (Graphic: TD Ameritrade)

OMAHA, Neb.--()--As college expenses continue to rise1 and student debt is reaching record highs,2 a new survey conducted by The Harris Poll for TD Ameritrade reveals that the modern college experience is undergoing major shifts for both young Americans and their parents.

Student debt accelerates
Student debt is becoming more prevalent, as nine in 10 (94%) young millennials incurred some debt through their college education – up 36% from when it was measured in a 2017 survey conducted for TD Ameritrade, with the average student debt tripling from $10,205 to $31,370.

  • The number of young millennials with $20,000 to $50,000 in student debt increased by 35%, while those shouldering over $50,000 went up 14%.
  • Six in 10 young Americans are stressed about their student loan debt (63% Gen Zs, 59% young millennials).
  • Young millennials expect to pay off their student debt at age 37, up from 35, though Gen Zs are more optimistic and hoping to tackle theirs by 33.

Many are considering cost-effective pathways
Young Americans are concerned about college costs, as most are covering at least half of it (on average, Gen Zs are covering 50%, and young millennials 66%). To manage college expenses, young generations are exploring their options:

  • Almost three-quarters (73%) of young Americans say they either chose or would choose a less expensive college to avoid debt.
  • 60% of Gen Zs and 74% of young millennials plan to work a part-time job in college or already are working, up 25% for young millennials compared to 2017.
  • 43% of Gen Zs and 31% of young millennials plan to use their savings to help pay for college, up 7% for young millennials from 2017.
    • On average, Gen Zs have saved $4,734 for their education, while young millennials have saved $9,258.
  • If they could go back and do it again, young millennials’ top advice would be to work more while being in college.

“Young Americans are starting to realize that to tackle their worries over potential student debt they need to take some action,” said Dara Luber, senior manager of Retirement at TD Ameritrade. “They’re willing to opt for a less expensive school, double down on work while studying, and save to help manage this continuously growing expense.”

College today is a team effort
Nearly all parents (94%) expect their child(ren) to attend college or trade school, compared to 83% of Gen Zs and 81% of young millennials who plan to do so. But along with high expectations, parents are offering financial support:

  • 84% of parents are currently saving or have already saved for their child’s college.
    • Grandparents are chipping in too, with a quarter of them saving to pay for their grandkids’ college.
  • Seven in 10 young Americans (69%) have spoken to their parents about paying for college.

While in college, parents go well beyond helping with tuition, as many of them:

  • Text their college student at least once a day (56% Gen Zs, 51% young millennials).
  • Call at least once a day (41% Gen Zs, 35% young millennials).
  • Question grades (47% Gen Zs, 32% young millennials).
  • Do laundry (31% Gen Zs, 37% young millennials).
  • Help with studying (25% Gen Zs, 19% young millennials).
  • Edit papers (10% Gen Zs, 13% young millennials).

“The rising college tuition1 and debt levels do weigh on the college experience of today, and with parents and grandparents chipping in to cover expenses, it has truly become a team effort,” said Luber. “But as young generations and their families adjust to the new financial reality, planning ahead and staying on the same page have become increasingly important.”

About TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation
TD Ameritrade provides investing services and education to more than 11 million client accounts totaling approximately $1.3 trillion in assets, and custodial services to more than 7,000 registered investment advisors. We are a leader in U.S. retail trading, executing an average of approximately 800,000 trades per day for our clients, more than a quarter of which come from mobile devices. We have a proud history of innovation, dating back to our start in 1975, and today our team of 10,000-strong is committed to carrying it forward. Together, we are leveraging the latest in cutting edge technologies and one-on-one client care to transform lives, and investing, for the better. Learn more by visiting TD Ameritrade’s newsroom at, or read our stories at Fresh Accounts.

Brokerage services provided by TD Ameritrade, Inc., member FINRA ( (

Source: TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation

About The Harris Poll
The Harris Poll is one of the longest-running surveys in the U.S., tracking public opinion, motivations and social sentiment since 1963. It is now part of Harris Insights & Analytics, a global consulting and market research firm that strives to reveal the authentic values of modern society to inspire leaders to create a better tomorrow. We work with clients in three primary areas; building twenty-first-century corporate reputation, crafting brand strategy and performance tracking, and earning organic media through public relations research. Our mission is to provide insights and advisory to help leaders make the best decisions possible. The Harris Poll is separate from and not affiliated with TD Ameritrade, which is not responsible for their services or policies.

Survey Methodology
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of TD Ameritrade from February 28 to March 14, 2019, among 3,054 U.S. adults and teens ages 15 and older. Key populations include: Gen Zs (n=1027, ages 15 to 21), young millennials (n=1026, ages 22 to 28) and parents (n=1001, ages 30 to 60). The parents had more than $25,000 in investable assets.




For Media:
Becky Niiya, 402-574-6652
Director, Corporate Communications

For Investors:
Jeff Goeser, 402-597-8464
Managing Director, Investor Relations

Release Summary

New TD Ameritrade survey sheds light on the modern college experience.




For Media:
Becky Niiya, 402-574-6652
Director, Corporate Communications

For Investors:
Jeff Goeser, 402-597-8464
Managing Director, Investor Relations