The student loan crisis has many nervous for good reason. Currently, the entire student loan debt in the United States is up to 1.4 Trillion dollars—that is about $620 billion more than U.S. credit card debt. Furthermore, 11.2% of student loan borrowers are in default.
Many reports have been coming out about how lenders like Navient have misled their borrowers, contributing to the ever-growing debt of many. Digging into this topic for the first time can be overwhelming. Consider these three things as a jumping off point for those attempting to understand the crisis at hand.
How It Is Similar to the Mortgage Crisis
One interesting comparison that is circulating right now is how the student debt crisis is similar to the mortgage crisis that began in 2007. Reuters explored this in a hard and fast article with graphics called “Student Loans and Subprime Mortgages: How the Two Debt Crises Compare.” Just like how lower interest rates and lending standards influenced the borrowing binge leading up to the mortgage crisis, federally subsidized loans that were available to many who were seeking a college degree spurred the enormous growth in student debt. In both situations, the prices for the asset went up. In the former, homes, and in the latter, college tuition. The most haunting statistic is how student debt in default is at higher levels than the mortgage default rate at the peak of the mortgage crisis.
How Loan Servicers Are Misguiding Borrowers
More complaints and stories continue to come out about how student loan servicers, contracted by the Department of Education, have pushed people into forbearance rather than provide information to them regarding other options such as an income-based repayment plan. The motivations of these lenders that have been reported include increasing their own profits at the expense of the borrower as well as avoiding the amount of work it would take to set someone up on one of these plans.
Lakisha Johnson’s story was investigated by Reuters in their article “Student loan borrowers, herded into default, face a relentless collector: the U.S.” After falling behind in payments, she was pushed into forbearance, and allegedly was not being informed by Navient that her loans would continue to accumulate interest. After losing her apartment, she hoped that she could use her tax return to get herself and her daughter back into a place of their own instead of living on people’s floors and the local homeless shelter. Unfortunately, she found out that her tax return was going to be used to pay off her outstanding debt that had more than doubled.
Decrease in Household Formation Caused by Growing Debt
According to a report released by ValuePenguin, from 2004 to 2014, the US saw in increase of 90% in student loan borrowers as well as an 80% in the average balance. Moreover, since 2004, student loan balances have increased by an average of roughly 256% across all age groups. Half of the student loan borrowers are 25 or under. These numbers exemplify how student debt has continued to increase, which in turn has now affected the housing market. What many are currently worried about is how low home ownership is among those under the age of 35. Because many of these people are in debt, they are delaying household formation. This has increased the amount of people staying at home with their parents, with roughly 30% of loan borrowers moving back in with their parents after graduation.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Many are hoping that the current administration will be able to wrangle in the crisis before it gets any bigger. Trump’s plans have been made available to the public. To learn about these possible changes and how they will affect the current crisis, you can read our quick overview here.