With the start of another school year, the air is once again filled with angst over the high cost of college. But the discussion is shifting. It’s not just about runaway tuition inflation anymore, or even the individual hardship that excessive college loans create for graduates. Now we’re talking about how student debt is everyone’s problem because it is crushing the economy.
Total student debt recently crossed the $1 trillion mark, more than Americans collectively owe on credit cards. New findings conclude that this debt is shutting young people out of the housing market, further depressing what is already the economy’s most troubled sector. According to Denied: The Impact of Student Debt on the Ability to Buy a House, a report from the youth advocacy group Young Invincibles:
“As monthly student debt payments increase for college graduates, so does their struggle to qualify for a mortgage. Looking at a key factor in qualifying for a mortgage—the debt-to-income ratio—we find some disturbing results. … Home purchases create jobs and spur economic growth. Cutting out a cohort of graduates who previously participated in this market will add another drag to an economy only just emerging from the Great Recession.”
This drag was probably inevitable. Student debt held at graduation has jumped 46% since 2000; total debt held by the public has soared by 511% in that period. Fed Chief Ben Bernanke has said he does not believe student loans will foment another financial crisis, as mortgage debt did five years ago. But the student loan burden can’t help but forestall things like auto and home purchases.
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