Financing Education, Another Mortgage Crisis in the Making?
Every once in awhile you see an article come up about Federal Student Loan programs and this week I saw two.
Reuters published an article a few days ago suggesting some fuzzy math by FinAid.org's Mark Kantrowitz concerning the nation's total student loan debt. It suggested that Kantrowitz may have overstated the number and was actually more like 610 to 800 Billion dollars. Not quite the 1 trillion dollar number being bandied about but historically large nonetheless.
On the political side Ron Paul (Republican candidate for president) in an interview on Sunday's (10/23/2011) Meet the Press on NBC said, "he'd kill the loan program eventually if he were president". His comments were framed in the context of higher education costs being inflated by government intervention.
While it's refreshing that the magnitude of the problem is coming to light, I've yet to see any real action to change it. Last year as part of President Obama's health care reform act, new student loans were going to be directly administered by the federal government. The goal was to eliminate the loan servicers who are in effect the middlemen of the student loan industry. Their function was to handle the administrative aspects of the Federal student loan programs adding fees and costs to the borrowers total indebtedness as well as to the Federal government.
While a welcome change, the legislation did virtually nothing for current loans. Student loan servicers haven't gone anywhere and as student debt grows it's a sure bet that a portion of that increase can be attributed directly to fees and gaming of the system by both schools and loan servicers.
The issue is that this isn't a fair game; in fact it's got worse odds than a Vegas slot machine. As I look at the overall condition of the economy it's not a stretch to believe that default on student loans is going to be the next financial bubble to collapse taking the government backed student loan program with it as well as the banks participating in it.Continued on the next page