A survey of millennial college graduates released this spring by Citizens Bank suggests that many young adults paying off student loans learned very little while school, at least in terms of acquiring financial commonsense.

Based on what they reported, 45% don’t know what percentage of their salary they spend on student loan payments, 37% don’t know the average interest rate on their student loans and 15% don’t even know how much they currently owe.

The majority of millennial grads (60%) expect to still be paying off their student loans by the time they turn 40. Meanwhile, 76% say refinancing is not part of their plan to pay off this debt and 29% have never even heard of student loan refinancing.

Those surveyed report owing on average just over $41,000 in student loans, but less than half said they’d give up barista coffee, concerts, sporting events and other discretionary expenses.

Brendan Coughlin, president of Consumer Lending at Citizens Bank, was surprised by how much millennial graduates don’t know (the survey revealed more things) Many of them seem to have their “head stuck in the sand,” he tells Financial Advisor. “Understanding what’s going through their minds help us serve them better.”

Although buyer’s remorse was not unexpected, Coughlin says he was very surprised that more than a third of millennials (36%) said they would not have gone to college if they realized the implications of the decisions they were making.

For Coughlin—who formerly headed up Citizens Bank’s Education Finance Group and now oversees it—the survey results emphasize the importance for families to get it right from the get-go. This includes evaluating the return on education, selecting the right schools and figuring out the best way to pay for them.

“I think the financial advisor can be very, very impactful here,” he says, by taking the emotion out of it, bringing clarity and helping families make wiser choices.

“Going to a $60,000-a-year school with interest in a major that might leave you on the other side of school with a $35,000 annual income is not a smart decision,” says Coughlin.  That’s not an easy conversation to have, especially with a teenager, but advisors can help families focus on the return on investment.

Financial advisors can also encourage families to look for free money (scholarships, awards and grants) and help them evaluate financial aid award letters and loans. “You can almost always get a better rate through a bank than the government,” says Coughlin. However, federal loans offer features such as income-based repayment and loan forgiveness, he notes.
Families can appeal a school’s financial aid offer through its financial aid office. “It’s worth a shot to sit down and be really open and honest with them,” he says. “Tell them, ‘I really want to go to this school but I can’t do it unless I get this type of package. Is there anything I can do or anything you can do to help me?’”

Millennials can find tons of free resources to improve their financial literacy. Most bank Web sites offer budgeting tips, calculators, and information about savings and retirement accounts, says Coughlin. He advises starting with a basic budget: How much income is coming in, how much is going out and where’s it going?

And don’t overlook power of refinancing. “I think it represents an enormous opportunity to relieve some of the burden that this generation has on student loans,” says Coughlin. He says his bank’s refinancing customers are saving an average of $147 a month and 1.5 percentage points on their annual percentage rate.