Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Reality of Student Debt

A very interesting, counter-intuitive article which claims that “The Reality of Student Debt Is Different From the Clichés” – mainly because, while the actual debt owed is very high today, interest rates are so low that the monthly payments aren’t too high:

The deeply indebted college graduate has become a stock character in the national conversation: the art history major with $50,000 in debt, the underemployed barista with $75,000, the struggling poet with $100,000.

The anecdotes have created the impression that such high levels of student debt are typical. But they’re not. They are outliers, and they’re warping our understanding of bigger economic problems.

In fact, the share of income that young adults are devoting to loan repayment has remained fairly steady over the last two decades, according to data the Brookings Institutions is releasing on Tuesday. Only 7 percent of young-adult households with education debt have $50,000 or more of it. By contrast, 58 percent of such households have less than $10,000 in debt, and an additional 18 percent have between $10,000 and $20,000.

“We are certainly not arguing that the state of the American economy and the higher education system is just great,” Matthew Chingos, a Brookings fellow and one of the authors of the new analysis, told me. “But we do think that the data undermine the prevailing sky-is-falling-type narrative around student debt.”

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