The Student Debt Disaster

StudentDebt by age

by Maisie Allison


It is likely that there are at least as many adult Americans with student-loan debts outstanding as there are living bachelor’s degree recipients who ever took out student loans. That’s right: as many debtors as degree holders! How can that be? First, huge numbers of those borrowing money never graduate from college. Second, many who borrow are not in baccalaureate degree programs. Three, people take forever to pay their loans back.

Meanwhile, total debt has now surpassed $1 trillion, which eclipses what Americans owe on credit cards and car loans. Andrew Leonard discusses the larger implications – and fraught politics – of the issue: 

[O]ne of the things that makes this crisis different from previous financial disasters — like, for example, the subprime mortgage debacle — is that it actually hasn’t been ignored. … The story of how President Obama has worked to help borrowers pay off their student loan debt and ease the path to affording a college education is a case study in how the current administration has worked to fix a broken system in the context of a political process that makes achieving any kind of progressive change almost impossible. 

As the above chart illustrates, many seniors are still on the hook.