The data is consistent and compelling: Because a college education translates into a better future and higher lifetime earnings, it should be worth the money you spend on it. But try telling that to the 1,500 Americans with student debt who responded to a nationally representative March 2016 Consumer Reports National Research Center survey (PDF). The burden of paying off significant loans has left many questioning—after the fact—whether college was worth the cost.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the August 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.