What kind of investments are student loans?

The sky-high cost of college tuition is causing more and more Americans to view student loans as a lousy investment, according to a new report.

Research firm Mintel's new report on Educational Lending found that only 20 percent of respondents see student loans as a good investment. This is down from 54 percent just two years ago.

This is not surprising, given the rising cost of student loans. Mintel found that, while 79 percent of 2012 respondents had monthly payments of $300 or less, by 2014 only 50 percent did. Five percent of respondents had monthly payments or $1,000 or more.

However, people do seem to be finding it easier to pay back the loans, despite the higher cost. In Mintel’s 2012 survey, a full 65 percent of respondents said they were finding it a hardship to pay back their loans; by 2014 that number was down to just 42 percent. The improving U.S. economy might have something to do with this.

Mintel also found that the cost of college is increasing at its slowest pace in decades. The increase in published in-state tuition and fees at four-year public institutions slowed from 8.5 percent in 2012, to 4.5 percent in 2012-13 — and to just 2.9 percent in 2013-14. Mintel said this was the lowest rate of increase in 30 years.

This might be the bursting of the “college tuition bubble” of recent years, which produced double-digit annual increases in the cost of attending college. If so, it will come as a welcome relief for the millions of Americans who must pay those bills for years after they graduate.

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