The Student Debt Bubble
By BRIAN KOENIG | THE NEW AMERICAN | MARCH 13 2012
As more and more young people graduate from college with mounds of unresolved loan debt, financial experts and bankruptcy attorneys are calling the progressively worsening dilemma the “next debt bomb.” According to a new survey conducted by the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA), 81 percent of bankruptcy lawyers report that the number of prospective clients with student loan debt has increased “significantly” or “somewhat” in the past few years.
The organization even compared the purported student loan debt “crisis” with the collapse of the housing industry:
With student loan debt now topping U.S. credit card debt and few or no options available for distressed borrowers (including unwary parents who co-signed loans and now face the loss of nest eggs, retirement homes and other assets), America faces the very real possibility of another major economic threat on a par with the devastating home mortgage crisis, according to a new survey and report published today [Feb. 7] by the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA).
Moreover, the survey reported:
- Nearly two out of five bankruptcy attorneys (39 percent) have seen potential student loan client cases jump 25-50 percent in the last three to four years. About a quarter of bankruptcy attorneys (23 percent) have seen such cases jump by 50 percent to more than 100 percent.
- Most bankruptcy attorneys (95 percent) report that few student loan debtors are seen as having any chance of obtaining a discharge as a result of undue hardship.
- More than four out of five bankruptcy attorneys (82 percent) see the limited availability of student loan discharge in bankruptcy as “a big problem” barring a fresh start for clients.
- Nearly two out of three bankruptcy attorneys (65 percent) say that student loan provider debt collections have become “much more” or “somewhat more” aggressive in the last 18 months.
Most of those clients, the association affirmed, were unable to meet the federal hardship criteria required to exempt their student loans through bankruptcy proceedings. Consequently, many loan co-signers, who are often parents or guardians, are required to cover the payments. Head of the NACBA William Brewer asserted, “This could very well be the next debt bomb for the U.S. economy.”
“Obviously, in the short term, student loan defaults are not going to have the same ripple effect through the economy that mortgage defaults did,” Brewer added. “My concern is that the long-term effect may be even graver, because people who need student loans to try to get a higher education or retraining” will be reluctant to apply for them.