Archive for ‘student loans’

March 25, 2015

Tips for older student loan borrowers

by Grace

How can older Americans sidestep student debt trouble?

With the need to retool career skills or pursue new vocations, more Americans are taking on loans to finance education later in life — for new degrees, certificates or course work called continuing education units to improve knowledge in demanding professions.

According to the Government Accountability Office, student debt held by those 65 and older has risen significantly in recent years, growing to about $18.2 billion in 2013, from about $2.8 billion in 2005. While it’s not known how much of that is the result of college loans co-signed for children or grandchildren, a good portion is for continuing education. Before the last recession, the working-age population pursuing “re-entry” courses jumped 27 percent over a decade, according to the Education Department.

The New York Times’ advice for senior citizens seems to be the same that younger student loan borrowers should follow.

… “Do a cost-benefit analysis. How will it maximize my earnings? Will I be able to service the debt?”…

“Evaluate your postgraduate payment plan,” Mr. Weber suggests. “What will your salary be after graduation? Will there be an immediate payoff in terms of a higher salary?”…

You can overpay for a degree or certificate that will yield little career advancement or salary increases. Mr. Weber warns against for-profit colleges that market aggressively and says their programs and graduation rates should be carefully vetted.

The federal government offers some flexibility in paying back loans, including income-based repayment (IBR).

But what happens after you’re out of school with continuing education debt if you can’t increase your income or don’t start earning money right away?

If you have federal loans, you can qualify for a break from payments until you can start paying them down. See the Education Department’s federal student aid website to explore the options.

Another option is income-based repayment, available only for federally guaranteed loans. Private loans are the least flexible in terms of repayment.

Retired borrowers may be more likely to qualify for IBR.

“If you’re at or near retirement, your income may be lower, which may affect your ability to repay your loan,” she said. “There is income-based repayment available, which can make repayment more manageable, but can also extend the repayment period, leading to more interest accrual. It’s something to keep in mind as you plan for the future.”

Since assets are not counted in determining eligibility for IBR and similar debt relief programs, senior citizens with substantial home equity and retirement accounts may find it easy to qualify.

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John F. Waskimarch, “Managing Student Loan Debt as an Older Adult”, New York Times, March 19, 2015.

March 19, 2015

New ‘Student Aid Bill of Rights’ makes it easier to pay back student loans

by Grace

The Obama administration’s new “Student Aid Bill of Rights” will “simplify the process to apply for income-based repayment”, a move likely to shift more of the burden for paying back student loans from borrowers to taxpayers.  That is just one of the new benefits for the 40 million borrowers holding $1.3 trillion in student debt.

President Barack Obama announced a new “Student Aid Bill of Rights” Tuesday, directing the Department of Education and other federal agencies to undertake initiatives in three areas to help improve affordability for the estimated 40 million borrowers with federal loans. “We’re going to require that the businesses that service your loans provide clear information about how much you owe, what your options are for repaying it, and if you’re falling behind, help you get back in good standing with reasonable fees on a reasonable timeline,” Obama said during his speech at the Georgia Institute of Technology Tuesday afternoon.

This is the government’s rather magnanimous promise:

A Student Aid Bill of Rights

  1. Every student deserves access to a quality, affordable education at a college that’s cutting costs and increasing learning.
  2. Every student should be able to access the resources needed to pay for college.
  3. Every borrower has the right to an affordable repayment plan.
  4. And every borrower has the right to quality customer service, reliable information, and fair treatment, even if they struggle to repay their loans.

Summary of changes:

1. Create a centralized website that makes it easy to file complaints and to see all your student loans in one place….

2. Try having federal employees collecting debts instead of private contractors…

3. Make it easier for borrowers who become disabled to get their student loans discharged….

4. Ensure that the private debt collectors hired by the Department of Education apply prepayments first to loans with the highest interest rates, unless the borrower requests a different allocation.

5. Make it easier for students to get IRS information to qualify for income-based student loan repayment.

6. Clarify the rules under which students who declare bankruptcy can get their student loans reduced or eliminated….

While I disagree with some of the federal student loan program’s fundamental policies, it’s nice to see the government take the initiative for more clarity and transparency.

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Kelli B. Grant, “Student loan initiatives could benefit 40M borrowers”, CNBC, March 10, 2015.

Kim Clark, “6 Ways the New ‘Student Aid Bill Of Rights’ Will Help Borrowers”, Money, March 10, 2015.

March 16, 2015

Most borrowers take more than 10 years to repay student loans

by Grace

The standard maximum repayment time for federal student loans is 10 years, but in reality most borrowers take longer.

The vast majority of former students entering repayment on their federal student loans in 2012 picked 10-year plans. The numbers were higher for former students from two- and four-year programs, up to 90 percent of which picked the standard 10-year plan.

Recent history indicates that many of those borrowers will be repaying their federal student loans for far longer than 10 years. With a lackluster economy, tepid wage growth and vast numbers of Americans still looking for full-time work, some federal policymakers fear current borrowers will need more time to repay their loans than previous generations.

20150314.COCStudentLoanRepaymentTimes2

Just last month the Obama administration predicted “the increased use of student loan forgiveness programs will cost taxpayers $22 billion next year”. Student loan forgiveness programs allow reduced monthly payments that typically extend the repayment period beyond ten years.

Here’s a listing of federal student loan repayment time frames.  Click the links to find more details. 

REPAYMENT PLAN TIME FRAME
Standard Repayment Plan Up to 10 years
Graduated Repayment Plan Up to 10 years
Extended Repayment Plan Up to 25 years
Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR) Up to 25 years
Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan Up to 20 years
Income-Contingent Repayment Plan Up to 25 years 
Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan Up to 10 years

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Shahien Nasiripour, “These 9 Charts Show America’s Coming Student Loan Apocalypse”, Huffington Post, 08/20/2014.

March 10, 2015

Which are the ‘altruistic’ professions that deserve special treatment?

by Grace

High school history teacher Kate LeSueur wrote that she wishes to “enlighten” us “on the discrepancy between the price of my education and the salary of an altruistic career such that of an educator”.

She compared a master’s in education with a master’s of business administration, pointing out that individuals with MBA degrees typically enjoy substantially higher salaries and lower student debt levels.

Why is it that we both went to school for the same amount of time and both earned master’s, yet my degree costs more and I get paid significantly less? I am not arguing that I deserve $90,000 a year — only that the cost of my education should be comparable to my salary. Society expects us to accept a fate guaranteeing small paychecks and large student loan bills. I am writing to say, America, we aren’t going to accept it much longer.

I find it hard to accept the rather sweeping statement that teaching is an altruistic career.  Although teacher unions have long maintained the message that all their efforts are “for the children”, I don’t buy it.  I’m not claiming that teaching is rampant with evil, money-hungry people, but neither are most other professions.  A typical MBA working to keep his employer profitable is no less deserving of special adoration than is a typical teacher.  And many people who earn generous salaries show their altruism in other ways, such as donating their time and money to worthy causes.

Furthermore, it’s troubling when the government gets in the business of deciding which jobs deserve special treatment, like the most generous Income Based Repayment benefits that are reserved for government and nonprofit employees.  George Leef points out the consequences of this politicized meddling.

… Whenever the government gets involved in an activity that is not properly any of its business, we get the infamous trio: waste, fraud, abuse, and then the politicians feel the need to meddle still more in an effort to solve the problems they’ve created. The federal student-aid programs are a perfect illustration. Repayment of loans is being politicized, with easy terms for students provided they make the “right” choices in employment. That will only further misallocate resources and help to keep the higher-education bubble inflated.

———

Kate LeSueur, “The price of a good education, $80K and counting”, cleveland.com, March 01, 2015.

February 26, 2015

Student loan defaults are the only type that continue to rise

by Grace

Americans are having more trouble paying off their student loans than their mortgages or any other type of debt.

As student debt balances continue to grow . . .

20150224.COCTenYearStudentLoanGrowth2

. . .  student loan defaults have overtaken those for all other types of debt.

20150224.COCStudentLoanDefaultTenYearGrowth2

America’s total student loan debt is now nearly $1.2 trillion. One reason the burden is difficult to pay off, Fed researchers wrote: “Student debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy like other types of debt … Delinquent or defaulted student loans can stagnate on borrowers’ credit reports.”

The number of student borrowers almost doubled over ten years.

The surge is fueled by more people borrowing — and borrowing larger amounts. The number of borrowers rose 92 percent between 2004 and 2014, according to the Fed researchers. The average student loan balance grew 74 percent.

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Danielle Paquette, “Americans are having more trouble paying off their student debt than their houses”, Washington Post, February 19, 2015.

February 25, 2015

Are we seeing a ‘big quasi-bailout’ for student loan borrowers?

by Grace

The Obama administration projects that the increased use of student loan forgiveness programs will cost taxpayers $22 billion next year.

… Primarily because of the recent growth in enrollment in the program, projected long-term revenues from the federal direct student loan portfolio were reduced by almost $22 billion compared with the best guess from the previous year….

This looks like ‘a big quasi-bailout’

That’s a big quasi-bailout, increasing the deficit nearly 5 percent. The White House budget office was unaware of any larger re-estimates since the current scoring rules for credit programs went into effect in 1992. As a January Politico Magazine feature on the government’s unusual credit portfolio reported, the Federal Housing Administration has stuck more than $75 billion worth of similar re-estimates onto Uncle Sam’s tab over the last two decades, most of them after the recent housing bust led to a cascade of FHA-backed mortgage defaults. But it’s never had a one-year shortfall quite as drastic as this.

Borrowers are made out to be innocent victims of “circumstances beyond their control”.

Regardless of which accounting method is used, the federal government is expecting to write off billions of dollars in future student loan balances under the program in order to reward public service employment and protect borrowers from economic circumstances beyond their control.

It’s not as if a student loan bailout should come as a surprise.  Here’s a question from 2011.

Is a student loan bailout inevitable?

20110913.COCCollegeLoanGrowth

Seeing the trend lines, Mark Gimein wrote this four years ago.

Eventually both private lenders and the government will be on the hook. The government has already moved to ease some loan terms. It will need to find more, especially for those snookered into paying for degrees worthless in the job market. The private loans, meanwhile, will simply blow up. We may as well start figuring now how graduates, taxpayers, lenders, and schools will split the bill.

Taxpayers just took on $22 billion, and there’s probably more to come.

Related:  “Politicized federal student loan program bails out ‘deadbeats’”

———

Kevin Carey, “Flip Side of Reducing Student Debt Is Increasing the Federal Deficit”, New York Times, February 10, 2015.

Michael Grunwald, “The College Loan Bombshell Hidden in the Budget”, Politico,  February 05, 2015.

February 23, 2015

Student loan defaults are most common among those with lowest balances

by Grace

It’s borrowers with the smallest balances that are most likely to default on their student loans.

20150220.COCStudentLoanDefaultByLoanBalance1

College dropouts are more likely to default.

… One likely explanation, offered by the New York Fed researchers, is that many Americans with small loan balances are dropouts. They may have attended school for a semester or two without getting a degree. They often don’t end up with the decent-paying job that a college education is supposed to bring, and thus lack the income to repay their debt.

Another possibility is that low-balance borrowers attained credentials such as certificates that don’t lead to the kind of jobs and salaries that a bachelor’s degree does.

A larger loan balance usually indicates a graduate degree, a credential that generally correlates with a higher salary.

By contrast, many borrowers with large loan balances are people who graduated from master’s programs and professional schools—doctors, lawyers—who typically end up with generous salaries. (We said typical, not always. There are plenty of struggling lawyers.)

High earners disproportionately take advantage of income-based repayment programs that shift part of their loan burden to taxpayers.

So while they have the biggest debts, they’re getting the actual returns on their investment and thus are in position to repay their loans. They also may be the most likely to enroll in income-based repayment programs, which many academics say disproportionately benefit high earners.

———

Josh Mitchell, “Who’s Most Likely to Default on Student Loans?”, Wall Street Journal, Feb 19, 2015.

February 11, 2015

‘master’s degree is the fastest-growing college credential’

by Grace

Master’s degrees are “as common now as bachelor’s degrees were in the 1960s”.

More than 16 million people in the US — about 8 percent of the population — now have a master’s, a 43 percent increase since 2002.

20150209.COCGrowthOfMasters

 

Forty years ago education was far and away the most popular major for a master’s degree, but today business has taken that spot.

20150209.COC1971PopularMasters  20150209.COC2012PopularMasters

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Are graduate programs exacerbating the student debt problem?

… The typical total debt for a borrower with an undergraduate and graduate degree is now more than $57,000, up from $40,200 in 2004. (This includes medical and law degrees.)

40% of all student debt comes from graduate degree programs,“even though graduate borrowers make up only 17 percent of all borrowers”.

Expanded loan forgiveness programs are “tailor-made for graduate students”.

Students who took out big loans for graduate school and those with higher incomes stand the most to gain financially under President Obama’s expansion of the federal government’s loan forgiveness program.

Lawyers, doctors and other highly trained professionals who utilized federal loans throughout their post-high school education could walk away with most or all of their graduate school debt forgiven by the federal government under the program, say experts.

Graduate students usually get their money’s worth.

… Almost regardless of undergraduate major, a graduate degree boosts earning power even further, according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce.

But does this proliferation of master’s degrees produce wasteful credential inflation?

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Libby Nelson, “Master’s degrees are as common now as bachelor’s degrees were in the ’60s”, Vox, February 7, 2015.

Susan Ferrecho, “The surprising winners of Obama’s student-loan program”, Washington Examiner, June 12, 2014.

January 21, 2015

Another reason to avoid student loans

by Grace

Level of student debt burden, not choice of school, is the biggest predictor of a college graduate’s well-being.

Last year Gallup surveyed over 30,000 college graduates to learn how well they were doing.

For the most part, the type of school has little correlation with well-being.

… It asked graduates how they were doing across five different metrics, including financially, physically and socially. Eleven percent of graduates of public universities and private universities said they were “thriving” across all five. Twelve percent of graduates of U.S. News & World Report’s top 100 schools were thriving, essentially the same as the rest.

20140120.COCWellBeingTypeSchool2

But student loans can cripple well-being.

20140120.COCWellBeingDebt2

The biggest predictor of whether a graduate wasn’t thriving was whether he or she had student loans. Fourteen percent of those without any debt said they were thriving, compared to 2 percent of those with more than $40,000 of debt. You can’t draw iron-clad conclusions from that, but those figures should be worrisome all the same for anyone thinking about taking on student loans.

Takeaway lessons:  Going into debt to attend your “dream” school may be detrimental to your well-being.  Private school may not be worth the extra money.

ADDED:

These are the five elements of well-being that were measured in the Gallup survey:

Purpose Well-Being: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals

Social Well-Being: Having strong and supportive relationships and love in your life

Financial Well-Being: Effectively managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security

Community Well-Being: The sense of engagement you have with the areas where you live,

liking where you live, and feeling safe and having pride in your community

Physical Well-Being: Having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis

———

Max Ehrenfreund, “Private colleges are a waste of money for white, middle class kids”, Washington Post, December 18, 2014.

January 20, 2015

Student loan forgiveness is rising, with taxpayers paying the tab

by Grace

More student loan borrowers are getting a break as taxpayers take over repayment of their debt.  The administration’s policy on this matter is described by the Wall Street Journal:

First encourage more student debt, then promote nonpayment.

One of the slow-rolling and under-reported government debacles is the rising amount of student-loan debt that is guaranteed by taxpayers and will never be repaid. Thanks to the federal takeover of the student-loan market in 2010, the Education Department now stands behind more than $1 trillion in outstanding debt. Less well known is how the same federal government that has promoted and subsidized this debt is also scheming to make sure it doesn’t have to be repaid.

Income-based repayment programs are one way for borrowers to shift responsibility over to taxpayers.

So-called income-based repayment programs reduce a borrower’s monthly payments and then forgive the remaining principal after a period of years. Graduates who choose the nonprofit and government jobs favored by the President can have their loans forgiven entirely after 10 years.

Participation in expanded government debt relief plans has doubled over the last year.

The Obama administration greatly expanded benefits under income-based repayment plans in recent years and has launched efforts to promote them. Enrollments are growing rapidly and now stand at an all-time high. Some 24% of Federal Direct Loan Program balances ($115 billion) that have come due are enrolled in the two most generous plans, Income-Based Repayment and Pay As You Earn. That is up from 14% a little more than a year ago. The number of borrowers using the plans has doubled over that time, to 2.2 million.

At the same time, default rates are trending upward.  This at a time when the economy is supposedly improving.

Student loans are promoted for everyone, regardless of qualifications.  And loans are being made easier “not to repay”.

This all makes sense, however, when you realize that the student-loan program has been designed to achieve two political goals: Loans should be available to any student, at any school, pursuing any credential; and student debt is bad and burdensome, so it should be easy for borrowers not to repay.

Based on these goals, the program is performing quite well for students and the institutions whose coffers swell under such loose lending standards. Loan issuance has grown rapidly in recent years while repayment rates have declined steadily. From the perspective of the taxpayers who must ultimately finance these liabilities, however, the federal student-loan program is performing badly and steadily getting worse.

Here is another prediction that IBR schemes “will dramatically increase in 2015″.

Use and availability of income-based repayment (IBR) schemes, which set repayment expectations at a set percentage of the student borrower’s post-college income, will dramatically increase in 2015. This is because policymakers have narrowly defined the student debt problem as a problem of student borrowers struggling to keep up with payments (i.e., avoid default). Therefore, setting payments at a more affordable level would seem to resolve the problems student debt creates….

William Elliott III
Founding Director of the Assets and Education Initiative at the University of Kansas, School of Social Welfare and an expert on student debt

Meanwhile in New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will propose new legislation to forgive the student debt of thousands of college graduates.

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“Your Taxpayer Tuition Bill”, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 30, 2014.

Jason Delisle, “The Hidden Student-Debt Bomb”, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 30, 2014.

NPR Ed Team, “Kindergarten Entry Tests And More Education Predictions for 2015″, NPR, Jan. 3, 2015.

Kate Taylor, “Cuomo to Offer Plan to Cut College Graduates’ Debt”, New York Times, Jan. 3, 2015.

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