Showing posts with label Student loan debtor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Student loan debtor. Show all posts

Monday, April 23, 2012

Albert Lord Says Student Loan Program is Not in a Bubble: Should We Believe Him?

Albert Lord Says Student Loan Program is Not in a Bubble
Albert Lord
CEO, Sallie Mae

According to recent news stories, Albert Lord, CEO of Sallie Mae (SLM Corp.)  rejected any claim that student loan debt has reached dangerous levels.  “We don’t see anything of any evidence close to a bubble,” Lord said in a conference call to financial analysts. “This country underwent a significant financial crisis in our very recent past. It’s not really a surprise that many see bubbles around every corner” (Mulholland, 2012). 
So Mr. Lord assures us the student loan program is not in a bubble. Should we believe him?
No, we should not. First of all, as everyone knows, the percentage of students who borrow money to attend college is going up and students' average indebtedness is going up as well.   Moreover, annual student-loan default rates have almost doubled between 2003 and 2009—going from 4.5 percent to 8.8 percent.  And these numbers only reflect the numbers of students who default within two years after beginning repayment.  When the default rate is expanded to measure defaults during the first three years after repayment begins, the rate goes up substantially—especially for students who borrowed money to attend for-profit colleges.  According to one projection, the three-year default rate for the 2009 cohort is 29 percent for students who attended for-profit schools.  (Lederman, 2011). Surely this is a sign of serious trouble ahead for the student loan program.
We should also look at some recent reports by outside analysts when we assess Mr. Lord’s assurances about the student loan program. The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, in a 2011 publication, reported that private lending increased dramatically from 2000 to 2007, reaching 26 percent of all student loans during the 2006-2007 academic year. Private loan volume then retreated from a high of $22.6 billion in 2006-2007 to only $7.9 billion in 2010-2011.  (Choi, 2011). This may be an indication that the private banking industry has concluded that student loans are becoming riskier for banks, in spite of the fact that these loans—like federally guaranteed loans—are almost impossible to discharge in bankruptcy.
In a 2012 publication, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that total outstanding student-loan indebtedness has reached $870 billion, surpassing the nation’s entire outstanding credit-card balances and its outstanding car-loan balances. According to the New York Reserve Bank, there are about 37million people with student-loan balances, Sixty percent of these borrowers are 30 years old or older, and about 27 percent of all borrowers have at least one past-due student-loan account.  Seventy-five percent of individuals with past-due student-loan accounts are 30 years old or older, and 40 percent are 40 years older or older.  These numbers tell us that a lot of people are struggling with student-loan debt well into midlife. 
In addition, Moody’s issued a report in July 2011, which is sharply different in tone from Mr. Lord’s optimistic reassurances. “The long-run outlook for student lending and borrowers remains worrisome,” the Moody report stated. “[T]here is increasing concern that many students may be getting their loans for the wrong reasons, or that borrowers—and lenders—have unrealistic expectations about borrowers’ future earnings.” Moody’s warned that “[u]nless students limit their debt burdens, choose fields of study that are in demand, and successfully complete their degrees on time, they will find themselves in worse financial positions and unable to earn the projected income that justified taking out their loans in the first place” (Moody’s Analytics, 2011).
In my opinion, Mr. Lord is wrong to say the student loan program is not in a bubble. Independent analysts see trouble ahead.  As I have written earlier, there are many things we can do to ease the burdens that weigh down overstressed student-loan borrowers.  But the first thing we must do is face reality and admit that the student loan program is out of control.
Choi, L. (2011, December). Student debt and default in the 12th District. San Francisco: Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. (last visited April 23, 2012).
Brown, M., Haughwout, A., Lee, Donghoon, Mabutas, M., & van der Klaauw, W.(2012). Grading students loans. New York: Federal Reserve Bank of New York. (last visited April 23, 2012).
Deritis, C. (2011, July). Moody’s Analytics: Student Lending’s Failing Grade.

Lederman, D. (2011, May 23). Trouble ahead on student loan defaults. Inside Higher Education (last visited April 23, 2011). 
Mulholland, S. (2012, April 19). Sallie Mae CEO Albert Lord Rejects Education Loan Bubble Claims. Huffington Post. (last visited April 23, 2012).

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Pepper Spray Incidents at UC Davis and Santa Monica College: Universities Need to Listen to Students' Concerns about the Rising Cost of a College Education

Earlier this month, campus police at Santa Monica College pepper-sprayed more than two dozen students who were trying to enter a Trustees meeting to protest a tuition hike.  Chui L. Tsang, the college’s president, defended the police officers’ conduct, insisting that police used appropriate restraint and did not arrest anyone.  (Rivera, 2012).
Last fall, campus police at UC Davis pepper-sprayed students who were peacefully participating in an Occupy Wall Street demonstration. A video of this incident, posted on You Tube, shows a helmeted police officer calmly pepper spraying students who are passively huddled on a campus sidewalk.
What’s going on here?  Don’t colleges realize that students are the customers? Don’t they understand how bad they look when people view these incidents on You Tube? How many UC Davis students and Santa Monica College students who witnessed their classmates being pepper sprayed are going to donate money to their alma maters after they graduate?
Campus police should not pepper spray anyone—student or nonstudent—who is not behaving violently or physically threatening other people.  The students at UC Davis and Santa Monica College were not behaving violently (although some of the Santa Monica College students were a bit rowdy), and they should not have been pepper sprayed. 
Instead of pepper spraying their students, colleges and universities should listen to student protests about the rising cost of tuition and burgeoning student-loan debt; and they should demonstrate that they are taking action to address their students’ concerns.
What should they be doing?
  • First, colleges and universities should stop raising tuition while they continue paying extravagant salaries to college presidents and senior executives. They should freeze or reduce the salaries of their highest paid employees—at least until the national economy recovers-- instead of tacking the cost of these excessive compensation packages onto students’ tuition bills.
  • Second, college and university trustees should cap tuition and fees until the economy improves, and they should work harder at making their institutions more efficient.
  • In addition, higher education should demonstrate their empathy for overburdened student-loan debtors by urging Congress to amend the Bankruptcy Code to give overburdened student-loan debtors reasonable access to the bankruptcy courts. They should also support legislation that would stop the federal government from garnishing the Social Security checks of elderly people who defaulted on their student loans. 
The cost of higher education is out of control, total student-loan indebtedness approaches one trillion dollars, and student-loan default rates are alarmingly high. Colleges and universities need to show students that they are helping to solve these problems.  Pepper spraying student protesters is the wrong thing to do.
Rivera, C. (2012, April 4). College president defends pepper spray against 'unlawful' crowd. Los Angeles Times.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Student-Loan Defaulters: Not All of Them are Young

What is your image of the typical person who defaults on college student loans? Do you envision a young and irresponsible college graduate—someone who ripped off the federal student loan program by borrowing money to get a fancy college degree and then refused to pay it back? If so, your image would be inaccurate. A great many defaulters are from low-income families. Often they attended a for-profit institution that provided them with little value. And—this may come as a surprise—many student-loan defaulters are not young.
Researchers for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York examined the loan status of 37 million student-loan borrowers. Fourteen percent of these borrowers—approximately 5.4 million people, have at least one past-due student loan account. According to the Federal Reserve Bank report, only about 25 percent of student-loan borrowers with past due balances are under the age of 30. Forty percent of the student loan borrowers with payments in arrears are at least 40 years old. Almost one delinquent borrower in six (17.7 percent) are fifty years old or older. And about five percent of the people who are behind on their student loan payments are at least 60 years old (Brown, Haughwout, Lee, Mabutas, and van der Klaauw, 2012).
Why are so many people falling behind on their student loans in midlife or late in life? There are several explanations.
First, some of the older student-loan borrowers are people who borrowed money in midlife, expecting to increase their income potential. Then—due a variety of life circumstances, these borrowers did not earn the income they expected.  Maybe they became ill, lost their job, or were the victims of the recent economic downturn. As a consequence, some of these older student-loan borrowers fell behind on their loans.
Second, some of the nation’s older delinquent borrowers obtained economic hardship deferments on their loans, which temporarily exempted them from making regular student-loan payments. For a majority of these people, interest continued to accrue on their loans during the deferment period, causing their loan balances to grow.  Consequently, when these borrowers began making loan payments again after their deferments expired, they sometimes had a swollen loan balance that they simply could not repay.
Finally, I suspect some of the older people who are behind on their student-loan payments are people who had previously elected to pay off their loans under the income-contingent repayment option, which extends the loan repayment period out to 25 years. For some older people, the prospect of making student-loan payments during their retirement years may have seemed too daunting, causing them to stop making payments on their loans.
Older people who default on their student loans receive no dispensation from their loan obligations due to their age. In fact, in Lockhart v. United States (2005), the Supreme Court has ruled that a student-loan defaulter’s Social Security checks can be garnished.  Thus, some elderly people who failed to pay back their student loans will face severe financial hardship if they are totally dependent on Social Security income during their so-called “golden years.”
Obviously, no one would recommend a government policy that would make it easier for people to default on their student loans. Nevertheless, garnishing the Social Security checks of elderly student loan defaulters is an overly harsh measure. Congress needs to pass legislation that bars lenders and collection agencies from garnishing a student-loan defaulter’s Social Security check.
Brown, M., Haughwout, A., Lee, D., Mabutas, M., and van der Klaauw, W. (2012). Grading student loans. New York: Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Accessible at:

Lockhart v. United States, 546 U.S. 142, 126 S. Ct. 699 (2005).