College Loans Weigh Heavier on Graduates
A very sobering report on the big jump in indebtedness by college grads. A major factor is the huge rise in for-profit colleges, which have MUCH higher tuition than public/nonprofit alternatives:
Student loan debt outpaced credit card debt for the first time last year and is likely to top a trillion dollars this year as more students go to college and a growing share borrow money to do so.
While many economists say student debt should be seen in a more favorable light, the rising loan bills nevertheless mean that many graduates will be paying them for a longer time.
"In the coming years, a lot of people will still be paying off their student loans when it's time for their kids to go to college," said Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of FinAid.org and Fastweb.com, who has compiled the estimates of student debt, including federal and private loans.
Two-thirds of bachelor's degree recipients graduated with debt in 2008, compared with less than half in 1993. Last year, graduates who took out loans left college with an average of $24,000 in debt. Default rates are rising, especially among those who attended for-profit colleges.
The mountain of debt is likely to grow more quickly with the coming round of budget-slashing. Pell grants for low-income students are expected to be cut and tuition at public universities will probably increase as states with pinched budgets cut back on the money they give to colleges.
Some education policy experts say the mounting debt has broad implications for the current generation of students.
…And there is widespread concern about those who borrow heavily for college, then drop out, or take extra years to graduate.
Deanne Loonin, a lawyer at the National Consumer Law Center, said education debt was not good debt for the low-income borrowers she works with, most of whom are in default.
Unlike most other debt, student loans generally cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, and the government can garnish wages or take tax refunds or Social Security payments to recover the money owed.
Students who borrow to attend for-profit colleges are especially likely to default. They make up about 12 percent of those enrolled in higher education, but almost half of those defaulting on student loans. According to the Department of Education, about a quarter of students at for-profit institutions defaulted on their student loans within three years of starting to repay them.
"About two-thirds of the people I see attended for-profits; most did not complete their program; and no one I have worked with has ever gotten a job in the field they were supposedly trained for," Ms. Loonin said.
"For them, the negative mark on their credit report is the No. 1 barrier to moving ahead in their lives," she added. "It doesn't just delay their ability to buy a house, it gets in the way of their employment prospects, their finding an apartment, almost anything they try to do."
April 11, 2011