Methods: Social workers in Ohio were recruited via postcards and the NASW Ohio chapter website. 701 participants completed the online survey using Survey Monkey over 14 months. The survey included 17 questions such as starting and current salaries, educational debt, expected repayment period, and demographic factors. Out of 701 participants, 683 remained for the final analyses due to missing data. Multiple regression analyses were conducted as well as descriptive analyses. The assumptions for regression analyses such as multicollinearity issues were also checked.
Results: The majority of the participants were female (89%), Caucasian (82%) with a MSW degree (71%). Regarding educational debt, the participants who are recent graduates (β = .213, p < .001), are African Americans (β = .074, p < .01), and have a longer expected repayment period (β = .644, p < .001) owed more educational debt. The participants with a BSW degree had less educational debt than those with a MSW degree (β = -.120, p < .001). Regarding the expected repayment period, similarly, the participants who are recent graduates (β = .218, p < .001), are African Americans (β = .044, p < .10), and have more educational debt (β = .673, p < .001) expected a longer repayment period. Interestingly, the participants with a BSW degree expected a longer repayment period than those with a MSW degree (β = .056, p < .05). The regression analyses also revealed that neither the educational debt nor the repayment period were statistically significantly related to starting and current salaries, age, gender, being other race, and having a PhD degree.
Conclusion and Implications: Considering the fact that the participants having a MSW degree expected a shorter repayment period even with more educational debt than those having a BSW degree, a higher education seems worth pursuing it. Nevertheless, various loan forgiveness policies and programs for recent graduates and racial minorities, specifically African Americans, may contribute to helping with their financial burdens from education, facilitating a higher education, and eventually reducing social inequalities in education.