Americans owe some $826.5 billion in revolving credit, according to June 2010 figures from the Federal Reserve. (Most of revolving credit is credit-card debt.) Student loans outstanding today — both federal and private — total some $829.785 billion, according to Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org and FastWeb.com.
That is just swell, and because Americans seem to have no trouble keeping up with their crushing credit card debt payments (lol), I'm sure there will be no negative implications for this massive pile of student loan red ink. After all, the debt is disproportionately held by young people with low incomes who are having a hard time finding work. It should be no problem at all that unemployment is highest for the 18-29 year old crowd, which also is the age group most likely to have student debt.
[T]here is $605.6 billion in federal student loans outstanding and $167.8 billion in private student loans outstanding. He estimates that $300 billion in federal student loan debts have been incurred in the last four years.
$300B in the last four years? They always said that in a recession, kids would flock to all forms of higher ed to take refuge. How many millions of unemployed people are delaying the pain and making it easy for book cookers to continue claiming unemployment is lower than it is? What happens when students have racked up a B.A., J.D., M.A. and a few other degrees for good measure? We're going to have the most overeducated panhandlers in the history of the world showing up on the streets.
Student Loan Justice, a Washington State-based student loan advocacy group issued a statement on the student-loan eclipse, estimating that media coverage of credit cards exceeds coverage of student loans “by a factor of approximately 15-to-1 based on unscientific news surveys conducted since 2007.”
But student loan debt, in many ways, is different than credit-card debt. These loans typically can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. They have different repayment terms, some of which can catch some have heavy consequences for borrowers who miss payments and borrowers’ families.
No news here. The perils of student loan debt, especially the inability to get it discharged in bankruptcy, and its penchant for giving doctorates and attorneys a standard of living similar to that of Chinese coal miners, are well documented. What is the natural response to this ticking time bomb of student debt, a trend which will only accelerate given the horrible economy, lack of prospects for young people, and dump-truck loads full of readily available federal loan money?
Bob "Disgusting Shill" Herbert over at the New York Times suggests that we all need to double-down on higher education! The U.S. lags New Zealand and other developed countries in the percentage of people with college degrees! (Oh lord.) The ONLY solution is to sign up as many 18-year-olds as possible for higher education and get them on the hook for $40,000 a year in federal loans. Otherwise, we may never see the benefits of having a highly-educated populace that countries like Belarus enjoy. Says Bob:
At a time when a college education is needed more than ever to establish and maintain a middle-class standard of living, America’s young people are moving in exactly the wrong direction. A well-educated population also is crucially important if the U.S. is to succeed in an increasingly competitive global environment.
According to a new report from the College Board, the U.S. is 12th among developed nations in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees. The report said, “As America’s aging and highly educated work force moves into retirement, the nation will rely on young Americans to increase our standing in the world.”
When this is the educational environment, you can say goodbye to the kind of cultural, scientific and economic achievements that combine to make a great nation. We no longer know how to put our people to work. We read less and less and write like barbarians. We’ve increasingly turned our backs on the very idea of hard-won excellence while flinging open the doors to decadence and decline. No wonder Lady Gaga and Snooki from “Jersey Shore” are cultural heroes.
Yes, Bob, the country is going to hell in a handbasket because not enough youngsters are drinking the Kool-Aid and plunking down tens of thousands of dollars for useless undergraduate degrees. This economic crisis and "failure to put people to work" is certainly the fault of a lack of education. Shunting millions more off into universities and shackling them with debt will definitely create jobs and solve all of our problems. And yes, it is definitely the fault of the Jersey Shore crew that young people today are supposedly so goddamned stupid.
I would propose that your average 18-25 year old is rightfully skeptical of higher education. On the one hand, everyone with a pulse goes to college. I don't know a single person my age who doesn't have a B.A./B.S. (Okay, maybe the guy at the gas station. Actually, he probably has a PhD.) When people graduate from college after having shelled out 25, 50, or 100 thousand dollars, only to return home, move into their parents basement, and cut lawns or work a cash register for minimum wage, I can only applaud those young people who are smart enough to avoid college. College, quite simply, is not for everyone. The value of a degree is so diluted, with so many tens of millions of students, that it imparts no particular value outside of a very narrow and elite set of advanced science, economics, or other specialized degrees from a handful of prestigious schools.
Young people taking a hard look at college and deciding to forgo the "experience" is a positive trend. If your parents are footing the bill, or if you're a genius who plans on getting a glitzy degree from a top Ivy program or MIT or something, then you probably will go. For the vast majority of us, who were told we needed to go to college to become "marketable," to learn, and to "grow," this has proved to be a pretty lie that has brought most people nothing but economic hardship, a diminished sense of self, and a lack of faith in our nation's once-vaunted educational system.
So, on this day when we toast the rise of The Student Loan as the new consumer debt god of the American people, let us also remember and salute those bright and clever youngsters who were not enticed by the fairy tales and promises of the good life, who forewent those boring lectures on aboriginal toolmaking and hegemonic heteronormativism, and are chugging along making the same hourly wages as the college crowd. That is, if they're not all unemployed like the college graduates.
There will always be blowback from the folks who refuse to believe that higher education isn't "worth it." It's easy to be skeptical and critical, and to lie through your teeth and put a falsely-positive spin on things, when one has no skin in the game. When one sees articles like these that draw heavily from the comments of law school staff, TTT administrators, and legal industry apologists, they cannot be taken seriously. When the stories from students and graduates in the trenches are so different and blearly compared to the upbeat forecasts offered by these shills, something is amiss. The question is, which side will prospective students believe? Tread warily.