With U.S. wages plunging and the nation’s over $1 trillion in student loan debt soaring, U.S. Department of Education data reveal that over half of the nation’s most common form of federal loan, Direct Loans, are not being repaid on time.
An analysis by Huffington Post reporter Shahien Nasiripour concluded that, “After adjusting for inflation, the average recipient of federal student loan funds owed 28 percent more in 2013 than in 2007.”
Findings like that are particularly vexing given the moribund U.S. economy. A report this month by the United States Conference of Mayors found that U.S. wages are down 23% since the 2008 recession. For college graduates with hefty student loans, the cash crunch has placed them – and taxpayers – at greater risk of default.
President Barack Obama has touted caps on so-called income-driven loans that allow borrowers to pay relative to their earnings. As Nasiripour notes, that means out-of-work borrowers, for example, can pay zero dollars a month without defaulting on their debt. Moreover, because unpaid income-driven plans “are typically forgiven after 20 to 25 years,” he points out that “critics worry that too many borrowers are enrolling in income-linked plans, forcing taxpayers to foot the bill.”
The growing student loan debt bubble has animated the imagination of progressive politicians and activists who see an election issue in mobilizing a “mass movement” for so-called college debt forgiveness – a move that would wipe clean the debts of millions of individuals with student loans and transfer them onto the backs of taxpayers.
However, experts point out that a sizable portion of the nation’s student loan crisis rests with those who choose to attend graduate school – a far smaller slice of the overall college student pie. Indeed, according to the left-leaning New American Foundation, 40% of the nation’s $1 trillion student loan debt belongs to graduate students.