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These days, the cost of a college education is becoming more difficult for many Americans to live with, and fewer believe their degree is helpful. Nonetheless, student loan balances are on the rise.

In recent years, the belief that a college education is a good value has become less common for Americans, and now stands at a low not seen in some time, according to a new study from Country Financial. Currently, just 57 percent of adults think pursuing a college degree is a good investment, down from 58 percent last year, 64 percent in 2010 and an all-time high of 81 percent in 2008.

Nonetheless, millions of Americans are taking on tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, the report said. In all, 57 percent of parents say their kids’ educations will be funded primarily through this type of financing, and are prepared to take on sizable balances to meet those goals. While 50 percent believe that less than $20,000 in student loan debt is too much, another 42 percent believe more than that amount would be too sizable a burden for their kids. That’s a stark change from just last year, when only 31 percent thought $20,000 and up was too much debt, and 61 percent were wary of lower balances.

“Even with the cost of college rising faster than inflation, a college degree is more valuable than ever,” said Joe Buhrmann, manager of financial security support at Country Financial. “And, an aggressive plan for funding your child’s education can help eliminate the burden of unmanageable student loan debt. So, start saving early and investigate all your funding avenues and alternative options, such as community college or working part-time.”

At the same time, many parents are now prioritizing their own futures over that of their children, the report said. Of those surveyed, 45 percent said they were putting their retirement funds ahead of helping their kids save for college.

The average student now graduates with as much as $45,500 in debts, including those on student loans and credit cards, which may be a significant impediment to their gaining financial independence soon after leaving school. This is especially true because research shows that the job market for recent graduates is still tough.

Image: j.o.h.n. walker, via Flickr

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