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Students without debt have more active social life, study finds

Some students with debt studied harder while others were disengaged from campus life

College students with no loan debt are more likely to lead a richer social life that involves partying, studying less, and forming relationships that will last long after graduation, a pair of University of Indiana sociologists says.

Students with debt fell into two categories. Some remained disengaged from campus life, including social activities and coursework. But others, who “appeared to accept the challenge and responsibility of the debt,” studied the hardest of all students and didn’t spend much time partying. These students had jobs but also participated in extracurricular activities, say graduate students Daniel Rudel and Natasha Yurk in a study.

"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," Rudel said in a press release issued by the university.

Rudel and Yurk used data from Princeton’s National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen, which surveyed students from 1999 to 2003 at nine liberal arts colleges, 14 private research universities, four public research universities, and one historically black college.

The findings indicate colleges and universities may want to examine whether they are giving students with debt enough support, Rudel said in the release.

"We aren't saying what college students should or should not be doing," he said. "But the lifestyles of students with debt diverge from the script people have of what college should be like."