Teen-Survey_CentSai-AdultingNEW YORK, July 12, 2016 – US teens have unrealistic expectations about paying for the rising cost of higher education, based on a random nationwide survey of 1,982 respondents aged 13-17, says CentSaiEducation, the financial wellness community for teens. While the majority (76%) polled say they believe a four-year degree is worth the cost, the majority (53%) also say they are only willing to incur up to $10,000 debt to get a degree. The average US college graduate today leaves owing almost $30,000*.

Almost a quarter (23%) of students are willing to incur up to $20,000 in debt, according to the survey.

“American teenagers are going to need to become financially savvy far in advance of applying to college to find ways to pay for a degree and still leave with less than $10,000 debt,” says Doria Lavagnino, Co-founder and President of CentSai. “I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it will require a combination of financial aid and scholarship knowledge, savings and entrepreneurship skills,” she adds.

US teenagers have a keen entrepreneurial interest, according to the survey. More than one-third of teens who said a four-year degree was not worth the cost said they will start their own business – first choice among alternatives such as working, travelling or joining the armed forces.

“It’s great that teenagers are thinking ahead about alternatives to a four-year degree, but I’m concerned about therealistic expectations of the respondents,” saysLavagnino. “The majority of those interested in starting their own businesses say they already have the skills they need, and nearly half (45%) would fund it through personal savings.”

The study also showed that teens whose parents do not have a four-year degree were more than twice as likely to say the cost of a four-year degree was not worth it.

“This survey shows that teens need far more education about finances, including education costs, and how to manage debt and savings. This is why we started CentSaiEducation, to cater to teens, whose financial literacy needs are not always met by their parents or schools,” says Lavagnino.

CentSaiEducation is partnering with non-profit Inceptia to offer Financial Avenue, a 10-part online course to help students learn about the basics of money management. Inceptia, a division of National Student Loan Program (NSLP), provides expertise in higher education, student loan repayment, default prevention, and financial education.

“Financial Avenue is a perfect complement to the hands-on focus of CentSaiEducation site. Our program was designed to ensure students not only understand the money management concepts necessary to become financially capable, but that they also comprehend how to apply positive financial behaviors in the real world. By partnering together to offer videos, quizzes, and now the Financial Avenue curriculum, Inceptia and CentSai have opened up an amazing opportunity for all high school students to become financially empowered, in an online environment that is native to them,” says Carissa Uhlman, Vice President of Student Success at Inceptia.


CentSaiEducation is part of CentSai Inc. CentSaiEducation is a financial wellness community supporting teens through their earliest financial decisions and events. CentSaiEducation’s mission is to inspire and help its community as they continue to grow financially though life.

There are two distinct segments of the CentSai financial wellness community — CentSai, which serves millennials (those born 1980-2000) and CentSaiEducation, which for teenagers.

The founders are Doria Lavagnino and Arindam Nag, former journalists.
Doria was an editor of major national magazines including Glamour, Cosmo Girl and Working Woman. Arindam is a former Reuters and Wall Street Journal journalist with an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business and is a Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst.

CentSai uses a wide range of media to make finance understandable for millennials, including blogging, experts, Q&A, vlogging, podcasts, quizzes and infographics. CentSai looks at life events and teaches about mortgages, savings, student loans, spending and investing by sharing stories with experts and peers.


This survey was conducted using randomized participants who are between 14 and 17 years old and live in the United States. No particular state or region was targeted over others. The survey was formulated to ask participants if they believed a 4-year degree was worth it, would not getting a degree limit your career potential, and is getting a college degree worth the debt. Based on the answer to the question “is getting a college degree worth the debt”, we filtered those participants to another list of questions.

* Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 2015.

Kelly Bailey
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