How U.S. Student Loans Became A $1.6 Trillion Crisis

Millions of Americans have one thing in common, a crippling amount of student debt. As of 2012, Americans owed over one trillion dollars in student debt. And as of June 2020, that total surpassed 1.6 trillion dollars. Nicole Smith: So it is significant.

This is the first time in our nation’s history that we’ve ever held this much in student loan. One of the most talked about side effects of the student debt crisis is how it’s forcing borrowers to delay traditional markers of adulthood. One survey found that 21 percent of borrowers had delayed getting married. 26 percent had pushed back having kids and 36 percent had put off buying a home, forcing an entire generation of borrowers to question the opportunity cost of going to college. At the same time, advancements in technology, especially automation, is making it harder to earn a living wage without some type of college degree.

Today, college graduates earn 80 percent more than those with just a high school diploma. College is more expensive and more important than ever before. And that dichotomy is putting students in a difficult situation. Do they risk going into crippling debt at the beginning of their adult lives in the hope that their investment turns into a career and financial stability? So what are students to do?

And how did we get here? CNBC: We know most of the one point seven trillion dollars in student debt is simply never going to be paid back. And then another kind of crisis happened. Recession. Recession.

Bad recession. And another–. The coronavirus pandemic. The economic fallout of the pandemic in the middle of a pandemic. Trying to figure out a stimulus package between mid-March and June of 2020.

Over 42.6 million Americans filed for unemployment. And as of February, the U.S. economy officially entered an economic recession.

During the 2008 recession, many opted to go back to school and gain new skills , but that is less certain now. David Demming: The real formative period for U.S. higher education was more or less 1890 to 1940, when a lot of modern colleges really started to expand and college started to be something that wasn’t just a vocation for people going to school to get a religious education or for a few of the landed wealthy. In 1919, an estimated 590 ,000 students were enrolled in American colleges, almost entirely wealthy white men.

In 1944, the G.I. Bill was signed giving millions of veterans the chance to go to college for free. In 1958, the Cold War brought fears that the U.S.

Was technologically falling behind, prompting Congress to pass the National Defense Education Act, which offered student scholarships and loans to go to college. And just like that, student debt was born. In 1965, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty paved the way for the Higher Education Act.

Grants were now given to students based on their income, which dramatically expanded the opportunity to receive a college education to students other than wealthy white men. Just as the civil rights movement was gaining momentum at the time, education costs were low. College enrollment numbers grew and so did the U.S. economy.

Enter the Reagan era and the tax revolt when states passed tax and expenditure limitations that impact the cost of education.

And that meant that state budgets came under threat. So states that used to basically highly subsidize college education for many people started to cut back in various ways, either by raising tuition or by spending less, which means expanding class sizes. In 1981, Ronald Reagan took office and began cutting federal higher education funding programs, college costs. The College Board estimates that during the 1980 to 1981 school year cost students the modern equivalent of $17,4 10 to attend a private college and $7,900 to attend a public college, including tuition fees, room and board on average.

By 1990, these costs increased to $26,050, respectively. As costs grew, lawmakers scrambled for new solutions to expand access and cut costs. In the early 2000s, the Bush administration facilitated the growth of for profit colleges. From 2000 to 2010, enrollment in private, for profit institutions increased by 329 percent. Then, in December 2007, the Great Recession hit.

CNBC: We are in a recession. A recession that lasts. He thinks potentially the rest of the year. Federal and state governments made deep cuts to higher education funding. The student debt situation was about to become a student debt crisis.

As the labor market weakened, more and more workers looked to higher education as a lifeline.

Public and private college enrollment spiked and many were forced to turn away students. For profit colleges welcomed these students with open arms. At its peak, the for profit sector accounted for a little bit more than 10 percent of all enrollment. About a quarter of Pell Grants, about a third of student loans, and more than half of defaults.

For profit colleges took in millions in federal aid and saddled students with piles of debt they couldn’t pay off. From the start of the Great Recession in 2008, the relative economic stability of 2018 college costs increased by 25 percent, while student debt increased by one hundred and seven percent. State and federal funding for higher education, the biggest source of revenue for most schools, has not returned to pre 2008 levels.

The decisions of the past are having a significant impact on borrowers today. Nicole Smith: $1.

6 trillion . That’s a significant fraction of our $20 trillion GDP. That’s how much we produce for the country per year. Smith says that today the average household with student debt owes about forty eight thousand dollars in student loans and that this is indeed a crisis to build in a generational wealth. A lot of that is bundled up in home ownership.

If you’re saddled with too much student loan debt, your ability to actually save up enough for your down payment, you know, is influenced by that. T.D. Bank estimates that student debt holders spend 20 percent of their take home pay on loans, which impacts the U.S.

economy, makes it harder for borrowers to prepare for retirement and exacerbates existing inequality. The average black household has about one thirtieth the wealth of the average white household. And according to the American Association of University Women, women hold roughly two thirds of all student debt in the nation as of 2019. Almost 929 billion dollars in outstanding student debt and a woman with a bachelor’s degree wouldn’t make, on average what a man, what an associate’s degree makes.

So in terms of repayment of those loans, you have women who are taking out higher and higher loans and their ability to repay is influenced by their lower wages.

So you almost have the makings of this perfect storm, which really disproportionately affects women. Student debt also has a significant impact on students everyday lives, the decisions they make and their mental health. My student debt– I have to join the military or marry rich. So I chances are probably join the military. After I graduate.

I have $ 35,000 in debt. Currently, I have $65,000 of student debt, now graduate with close to 100 students. And mostly that manifests itself as the kind of job or career path you’re going to seek. After graduation, I always wanted to pursue pre-med or something like that. I ‘ll be doing investment banking .

Mostly high paying. We’re talking Wall Street consulting. They are super artistic and creative people and they would love to pursue those pathways. But because of their income or because of the way that they’ve grown up, they are choosing like STEM fields.

I don’t want to be in debt for all of my life.

And the tuition here could definitely make that possible. People are horrified about the possibility of not landing a job, not landing an internship, because if you don’t lands on your feet coming right out of it, what do you do? It’s one of the reasons why I can even enjoy being a student here, because every semester I have to worry about do I have enough money to go to school next semester? Well, especially people have to work.

I mean, the workload here is enough.

I have a job with , actually the university, in order to, like, supplement my income. Nothing in life comes easy. I think everyone can attest to that. Get the best job possible to pay off that debt. And that’s the best that I can do.

All of this begs the question, who is to blame for the student debt crisis? It’s a tough question to answer directly. The entire system should be held to the fires. I think when it comes to the student loan crisis, we all share a little bit of the blame. And with coronavirus forcing colleges to close their campuses and forcing millions of students to take classes online, students are re-evaluating if their new educational experience is worth the cost.

Students are suing their schools for refunds, and the government is spending trillions on economic stimulus, which makes people think that maybe we’re closer to some type of student loan forgiveness than we’ve ever been.

Betsy Mayotte: I agree with the statement saying that we’re the closest we’ve ever been to student loan forgiveness. It’s not going to happen. This pandemic is affecting everybody in some way. The money that comes in from student loans is also used to pay for things like Pell Grants, but wasn’t for those grants low-income people wouldn’t be able to attend school.

David Demming: A generation ago, there was a system that helped you not take the risk on yourself to pay for college education. But society took the risk on for you by making tuition cheap. Today, we’ve shifted the risk from society directly to the student.

And that’s not a narrative that just has to do with bad actors and good actors and in many ways is a societal choice we’ve made. And in that sense, we all have to answer for it.


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