Crushing Student Loan Debt: A Top Consumer Problem

There are many consumer problems in America today. Younger consumers are also facing the crushing burden of student loan debt. According to MarketWatch, Americans have a total of $1.2 trillion student loan debt which is racking up by $2,726.27 every second. Combine these figures with the appalling statistics that 70% of students are graduating from college with debt, and 40 million Americans are saddled with outrageous student loans, and it’s clear to see why this is a real problem for Americans and the economy.

Exorbitant student loan debt prevents consumers from buying homes and cars, or starting a family. That prevents economic growth generally. Improperly-structured loans have left students with impractical monthly payments that look more like a mortgage payment. Many Americans can’t make these payments at all, and even the ones that can are barely paying down the debt because of astronomical interest rates. According to the Wall Street Journal, roughly 43% of student loan borrowers are behind or not making payments.

This is compounded by the fact that most Americans with student loan debt took on that debt in order to advance their career. Some educational institutions made false or misleading representations about average starting salaries and graduate employment rates, but left their students with a diploma that amounts to little more than a worthless piece of paper—despite having a degree, these graduates haven’t been able to start a career that pays enough to afford their student loan payments. They decided to take out student loans believing that after graduation they would find a lucrative job (often based on the schools’ representations and marketing), but have not been able to do so. For-profit schools have been blamed for running up student loan debt in particular.

Student loan debt requires serious attention. There are many loan repayment and loan forgiveness programs, but it is clear they are not adequate to address the situation. For some Americans, it is nearly impossible to repay their student loans under the current repayment plans. This problem not only affects individual consumers, but also the American economy. Even cutting interest rates will not help in many cases—it may be necessary to majorly restructure the entire student loan repayment system to increase the repayment period and modify interest rates in order to create affordable monthly payments. The problem is made worse by the fact that student loan debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy

unless excepting such debt from discharge under this paragraph would impose an undue hardship on the debtor and the debtor’s dependents.

11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(8). Likewise, many student loans are subject to the Federal Debt Collections Practices Act, which can make things much more difficult for debtors.

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