Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Rats Are Deserting A Sinking Ship: Banks Are Getting Out of the Private Student Loan Business

JP Morgan Chase Bank recently announced that it is getting out of the student loan business.  The bank said it was responding to a trend by students toward taking out federally back student loans, but in fact it has been scaling back its student loan program for several years.  This year the JP Morgan Chase only loaned about $200 million, down dramatically from 2008, when the bank loaned an astonishing
I'm getting out of the student loan biz
$6.9 billion to student borrowers (according to USA Today).

There was a time when the banks considered student loans to be very profitable. In 2008, they loaned a total of $20 billion. The student-loan market must have looked very lucrative at the time.  After all, a majority of these loans have a co-signer--usually a student's parent; so mom and pop are on the hook for them.  And the banks got legislation through Congress in 2005 that made private student loans almost impossible to discharge in bankruptcy.

In fact, for several years prior to 2008, private loan volume increased every year such that one commentator predicted that private student loans would exceed the federal student loan program by 2030.

But the banks are backing out of the private student loan business. After 2008, loan volume began dropping precipitously and only amounted to $6 billion in 2011.

Private student loans generally have higher interest rates and less favorable terms than loans offered through the federal student loan program. So who took out these loans?  The usual suspects. According to a report to the Senate Banking Committee, 46 percent of undergraduate students in four-year programs at for-profit colleges took out private loans in 2008 compared to only 14 percent of comparable undergraduates at public colleges.

The Project on Student Debt also found that students attending for-profit colleges were most likely to take out private loans and that African American students were more likely to take out a private bank loan than other students.

Why are the private banks reducing their student loan portfolios?  My guess is that the banks are bailing out of the student loan business because it has become unprofitable. In spite of the fact that these loans are almost impossible to discharge in bankruptcy and a majority of them are co-signed, the banks are still seeing a high default rate in their private loans.

In short, the rats are leaving a sinking ship. They are retreating from a sector that is no longer profitable.


JP Morgan Chase to stop making student loans. USA Today, September 5, 2013. Accessible at:

Private Student Loans. Finaid web site. Accessible at:

Private Student Loans. Report to Report to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services, and the House of Representatives Committee on
Education and the Workforce. August 29, 2012. Accessible at:

Private Loans: Facts and Trends. Report updated in July 2011. Project on Student Debt. Accesible at:

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