The Student Loan Problem

Could student loan debt “derail” the U.S. economy? That’s possible, argues former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich. According to a piece at CBS News:

Though it’s not a financial crisis now, it could be if the level of student debt continues to mount as it is now… Reich said Wednesday on “CBS This Morning.”

Reich, who teaches public policy at the University of California, added additional education debt is a growing problem. “A lot of students cannot get jobs in this economy,” he said. “They have gone into additional education because they couldn’t get jobs, but now they’re finding that they have more debt they have to pay off, and that additional education, although it will pay for itself over the long-term, right now is a huge debt burden.”

The biggest problem seems to be that people who spend a great deal of their income servicing loans can’t really do the normal things people do with their lives that help fuel recoveries. They don’t build houses or buy new cars, they don’t start businesses. They’re even slower to have children, which end up fueling economic recoveries a great deal

Still, notably missing from this discussion is any real picture of that what this problem actually looks like. A whole bunch of people servicing student loans is burdensome, for sure, but it’s not actually “derailing the economy;” it’s just possibly preventing any major upturn.

This surely isn’t good for America’s finances, but Americans have been worried about the dreaded crisis in student loan burdens for almost 30 years. And the bottom never seems to drop out.

The average student loan debt per borrower is now $25,000. How high would it have to go to create a real financial crisis?

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer