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Will Student Loans Cause an Economic Armageddon? (student loan growing faster than housing bubble)
Lifeboat Foundation ^ | 05/24/2012 | Jake Mann

Posted on 05/25/2012 9:02:17 AM PDT by SeekAndFind

In 2006, the underpinnings of the American financial system began to crack from a speculative bubble in the country’s housing market. Fueled by irrational exuberance in which homeowners believed their home prices would rise forever, this was made worse by Main Street and Wall Street, both of whom repackaged mortgage loans for sale to everyday investors through a process called securitization. That’s right, this was a multipronged problem, not the hell-bent desires of a few financial fat cats, as Occupy Wall Street would have you believe.

When the bubble burst and home prices began to decline, this not only hurt the original lender, but also every investor that held a piece of a mortgage-backed asset. Imagine this process like a moldy pie that no one realizes is bad. Originally, the entire pie is held by one bank. Next, pieces of this pie are sold to other banks, pension funds, hedge funds, and anyone else that has an appetite. Soon enough, however, everyone holding this pie has gotten sick. Well, this happens with all kinds of assets, including car loans, credit cards and student loans. The benefit of securitization is that it allows organizations to grant more loans to people like you and me, but the downside is that it exposes the entire economy to the financial woes of an individual market. Without securitization, what happened in the housing market would have likely stayed in the housing market.

Six years later, many people are crying that the same thing will happen to the student loan market. While disbelievers can claim that these are just ‘cynics’ whose views are skewed by the world’s ongoing economic turmoil, a basic investigation into the matter yields some worrying results.

1. A college education has more in common with a house than you would think. Currently, the average cost of a single-family home in the United States is just above $150,000, while the average tuition of a private institution’s four-year degree program is around $130,000. Moreover, it is common practice for students to employ the use of debt to cover 20 to 50 percent of their costs, depending on the state. Just as homeowners once expected home prices to rise every year into infinity, students are undertaking loans with a shared expectation of a future income that exceeds the value of the loan. Unfortunately, historically high rates of unemployment have made this a pipe dream for an increasing number of students. In fact, the latest nationwide student default rates stand at 9 percent, up two percentage points from the previous year.

2. The student loan bubble has been growing faster than the housing bubble. According to a recent study by the New York Fed, the volume of student loans in the American economy has increased 500 percent over the past decade to a current value of $1 trillion. While this amount is less than the value of the mortgage volume peak before the recession, the growth rate is twice as high.

3. SLABS may be this crisis’s nuclear bomb. The acronym SLABS stands for student loan asset backed securities. In many ways, they are similar to the mortgage backed securities that played a hand in breaking the financial system in 2008. It is estimated that there are over $250 billion worth of SLABS in the markets today. This is a whopping 1,000 times the amount of SLABS in the American economy 20 years ago. More troubling, these investments have been viewed as the safest asset backed security in the post-recession era. While securitizes backed by mortgages, auto loans, and credit cards have been cut in half over the past few years, SLABS activity has continued to grow. In fact, they are marketed to individual investors, pension funds, and anyone else seeking an economic safety net.

4. Student loan debt is unforgivable. This ‘safety net’ belief is held partly because student loans are currently the only form of debt that is unforgivable even in bankruptcy. From investors’ eyes, this is good news because their return is generated from students making their loan payments. From a broader perspective, though, this spells bad news for the American economy. See, students can still default on their loans, which simply means that they are unable to make payments. Unlike mortgage debt, however, students who default are not given the option of leniency in the form of principal or interest rate reduction.

Instead, defaulting students are economically punished, as they are unable to receive any IRS tax refunds or federal benefits. Moreover, the government is entitled to take up to 15 percent of a student’s disposable income, and may even sue in some cases. In a world teetering on the edge of a double-dip recession, all of these actions would only make the situation shoddier. In fact, the worst thing that can happen to a mortgage defaulter is the loss of their home, but they can move on, economically speaking. Students who default on their loans, however, are not offered the same route. Moreover, this incentivizes lenders to offer loans to any and all students since there is no risk of payment loss in the long run. Tell me, do we trust our lending institutions enough to think that this would not be the case? Of course not; besides, it is arguably up to the government to provide an economic structure for banks to follow. If businesses are profit maximizing, which we’ve all learned in school that they are, then they are not to blame for taking advantage of this situation.

5. Unlike all other debt holders, students are not classified based on their ability to repay. Okay, most lending institutions look at the credit worthiness of a student’s parents, but this is insufficient. What lenders should be doing is rating students based on the probability that they can repay after graduation. Whether we like it or not, the only way to do this is to classify students based on their future earnings potential. Think about it – a student with an Engineering degree will be entering a field where the median salary is $90,681. Moreover, the unemployment rate in this field is around 2 percent. Compare this with a student majoring in English. This student is only expected to earn around $40,000 in a field with 7 percent unemployment.

Clearly, the student with the lower expected salary entering the riskier field should be granted a lower amount of student loans. While some may argue that this disincentives students to follow their dreams, it is common sense economics. Moreover, a student rating system would likely improve the U.S.’s fallback in the global Math and Science race, in which the country is currently ranked 23rd and 31st respectively. As college students would realize that they could only attend the best institutions if they chose the highest-earning majors, this problem could be corrected over the next decade. Now, doubters may cry that the most affluent students would not be subject to this plan, but this is an advantage that persists in any scenario. In fact, the implementation of this system could reduce a growing wealth gap, as a higher percentage of lower-income students shifted to the most fruitful career fields.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Education; Society
KEYWORDS: college; debt; studentloancrisis; studentloans; tuition

1 posted on 05/25/2012 9:02:28 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

We are creating a generation of indentured servants to serve the corporatist state

Indentured servants first arrived in America in the decade following the settlement of Jamestown by the Virginia Company in 1607.

The idea of indentured servitude was born of a need for cheap labor.

2 posted on 05/25/2012 9:08:11 AM PDT by mo (If you understand, no explanation is needed. If you don't understand, no explanation is possible.)
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To: mo
On the one side it was due to the need for more labor, preferably cheap. However, on the other side, it was a loan to the poor (but adventurous) of Britain for passage to the new colonies. Their future labor for 7 years was the only security they could offer for the loan to pay their ticket to the colonies.

In other words, it was a good thing in many ways - it helped the Brit to emigrate and it helped the new colonies.

The most unfortunate aspect was the fact that a black man called Johnson was allowed by a judge to make one indentured servant a servant for the rest of his life. That was the birth of slavery in the US.

3 posted on 05/25/2012 9:38:04 AM PDT by expat2
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To: SeekAndFind

Student loans only pay off when there are jobs waiting for graduates, and that only happens when the private sector is healthy. The war on Capitalism and the private sector is creating the student loan bubble.

4 posted on 05/25/2012 9:57:40 AM PDT by pallis
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To: SeekAndFind

You took out the loan, you signed the dotted line, you legally agreed to the contract. Welcome to the real world. We paid off our loans, so quit griping and live up to your obligations.

5 posted on 05/25/2012 10:23:17 AM PDT by theDentist (FYBO/FUBO; qwerty ergo typo : i type, therefore i misspelll)
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To: SeekAndFind

I don’t know why they just don’t take it out of these people’s paycheck. If you owe student loans, pay them. If they don’t have a job, take it out of the unemployment check or welfare or whatever. This is ridiculous. Every generation has had student loans and they paid them off. Just pay them free loaders. I blame the government for not doing more to get the money from these jerks.

6 posted on 05/25/2012 10:52:54 AM PDT by napscoordinator (VOTE FOR NEWT!!!!)
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To: SeekAndFind

Maybe all those colleges and universities, the professors and administrators, all of whom have grown rich and wealthy from these irresponsible student loans, should be held responsible for them.

7 posted on 05/25/2012 12:26:27 PM PDT by Uncle Chip
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To: SeekAndFind
It might cause a University Professor Armageddon, as thousands of redundant faculty positions are eliminated and the displaced professors face the horrifying reality of having to work for a living. :)

Student loans are eventually going to end up dischargeable in bankruptcy again, and that will be the end of America's Great College EduScam.

8 posted on 05/25/2012 12:33:05 PM PDT by Mr. Jeeves (CTRL-GALT-DELETE)
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To: theDentist

And, flip side, some company wrote up a contract knowing they were loaning a lot of money to someone who has strong odds of not paying it back. Welcome to the real world. Viable loans get paid back on the whole, unviable loans don’t, so quit griping and suck up the loss.

Both sides need to recognize some scenarios just aren’t feasible, and like the housing bubble seems it will take a crash to wake people up to the fact.

Tuition will keep going up until people stop agreeing to pay it.

9 posted on 05/25/2012 12:41:25 PM PDT by ctdonath2 (Cloud storage? Dropbox rocks! Sign up at for 2GB free (and I get more too).)
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