The amount of student loans taken out last year crossed the $100 billion mark for the first time and total loans outstanding will exceed $1 trillion for the first time this year. Americans now owe more on student loans than on credit cards, reports the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.It falls primarily on young people, but not exclusively: The long-term unemployed have been encouraged for years to return to school, often taking on debt to do so. There are a lot of people who have invested borrowed money into education that is supposed to help them get a job, only to find themselves still jobless but deeper in debt.
Students are borrowing twice what they did a decade ago after adjusting for inflation, the College Board reports. Total outstanding debt has doubled in the past five years — a sharp contrast to consumers reducing what's owed on home loans and credit cards.
Taxpayers and other lenders have little risk of losing money on the loans, unlike mortgages made during the real estate bubble. Congress has given the lenders, the government included, broad collection powers, far greater than those of mortgage or credit card lenders. The debt can't be shed in bankruptcy.
The credit risk falls on young people who will start adult life deeper in debt, a burden that could place a drag on the economy in the future.
Individual solutions to systemic problems don't work. There has to be robust job creation to counter endemic under- and unemployment, not fairy tales about how education is a guaranteed path to employment and economic security.