Student loan debt tops $1 trillion

Discussion in 'Economics' started by bigarrow, May 9, 2013.

  1. Original

    Elizabeth Warren: Students “deserve the same break that big banks get”

    Senator tells Salon about her bill to lower student loan rates -- to match same rate banks pay to borrow from Fed
    by David Dayen
    | May 8, 2013
    Read Later

    Freshman Senator Elizabeth Warren, in the first bill she has introduced in the Senate, announced Wednesday a plan to address the crisis of outstanding student debt – which topped $1 trillion this year, with over 37 million Americans owing thousands of dollars in higher education costs that could take decades to pay back.

    Student debt is now the second-highest form of debt in America – behind only mortgage debt – with the number of borrowers and the average balance increasing 70% since 2004. Research from the New York Federal Reserve Board indicates that this has begun to have an impact on the broader economy, with young people burdened by student debt more reluctant to take out auto or home loans. And without Congressional action, this will get worse: on July 1, interest rates on federally subsidized Stafford student loans will double, from 3.4% to 6.8%. This will effectively raise costs for 8 million student borrowers by $1,000.

    President Obama’s budget proposal would set subsidized student loan rates at 1% above the interest rate it costs the Treasury Department to borrow money for the US government. But a variable rate without a cap would come back to haunt students when interest rates rise again. Another proposal would simply freeze the current rate of 3.4%, and would institute a plan limiting payment to 10% of income over a 10-year period.

    Warren’s plan takes it a step further. For the next year, she would reduce the subsidized student loan interest rate to the same rate that America’s largest banks pay to borrow money from the Federal Reserve at the “discount window.” Currently, banks pay a minimal 0.75% to borrow from the Fed, 1/9th the rate that students would pay if Congress fails to act by July 1. Under the plan, the Federal Reserve would give the Department of Education the funds necessary to equalize those rates.

    “The U.S. government invests in big banks by giving them a great deal on their interest rates,” Warren said in an interview with Salon. “We should make at least the same investment in our students.” Warren introduced the legislation in a Senate floor speech Wednesday morning.

    This one-year stopgap, while Congress works on a permanent solution, would solve several problems. In the near term, it would save money for students, perhaps relieving some of the burden that has led them to scale back their purchases and threaten overall economic growth. In addition, the Federal Reserve has a stated policy of lowering interest rates to spur economic activity, known as quantitative easing, but they have had difficulty extending the benefits of QE beyond Wall Street and the wealthy. Fed Chair Ben Bernanke admitted as much last February, noting in a speech that while QE has helped housing and stock markets, difficulty in obtaining mortgage credit has meant that “the strong actions taken by the Federal Reserve… have had less effect on the housing sector and overall economic activity than they otherwise would have had.” If the Fed is looking for ways for Main Street to benefit from cheaper borrowing rates, they could hardly endorse a more appropriate policy than lowering student loan interest rates in the short term to what they give out to big banks.

    In her interview with Salon, Warren noted that the federal government profits from student loans. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the government will make $34 billion in 2013, in fact. Aside from that, the investment in helping a young person afford higher education is massive in terms of their future earnings and even overall economic growth. Evening out student loan interest rates and big bank discount window interest rates simply expresses the notion that educational opportunity is as crucial to the overall economy as a strong financial system.

    As expected, bank lobbyists are unhappy with the proposal, particularly the idea that “short-term” discount window loans in a time of crisis are irrelevant to student loans. Of course, many economists, including the New York Fed, believe that student debt is reaching crisis proportions. And banks have relied on that “emergency” cheap money for years. Indeed, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley turned themselves into bank holding companies in 2008 expressly to get access to the discount window. As Mike Konczal argued in 2011, there’s no reason why the future leaders of America couldn’t get the same kind of “deathbed conversion.”

    House Republicans stepped back from the brink in 2012, when the subsidized loan rate was set to double, patching it for a year. They could do it again, and Warren’s plan would go even further. Salon discussed the proposal with Senator Warren by phone today, including her plan to get it passed.

    So this is a one-year plan?

    It’s a one-year plan to give Congress time to work out a permanent solution.

    And would this be your permanent solution?

    Yes! Look, the U.S. government invests in big banks by giving them a great deal on their interest rates. We should make at least the same investment in our students.

    So is this like a Quantitative Easing program for Main Street?

    I like that, yes. The one way it’s different, though, is that it’s highly targeted. But it does link up, the Fed came out with a study in March saying that student loan debt threatens our shaky recovery. Student debt has a powerful impact on household spending. So this is about students, but it’s also about our economy.

    What about the idea that offering cheap student loans contributes to rising college costs, because if a student can defer the cost they won’t care about the price?

    You’re asking exactly the right question. The problem of rising college costs is part of a bigger conversation and a bigger fix. Today’s proposal is about protecting our students. So you’re exactly right about the problem. That’s just going to take a heavier lift to get to the right place. Bringing down student interest rates doesn’t fix all the problems with higher education, but it helps our students now. We should not hold students hostage to solve bigger questions.

    Any co-sponsors on the bill yet?

    Nope, not yet. This is my first stand-alone.

    So what’s the plan to get this passed, while this sword of Damocles, this doubling of the interest rate, hangs in the balance, with a deadline of July 1?

    This is grassroots federal legislation. The plan is to mobilize as many students as I can, get them to talk to their senators and representatives. When we think about, how do we get bills through Congress, we have to open up the conversation. We want students to be part of this, not to have other people making decisions for them. That’s why I’m talking to Salon, to get the word out for this. So a student can call their representative and say, we deserve the same break that big banks get. Why does America invest in big banks but charge us nine times more? That’s going to be a powerful message. If they do that, we can build support and win.

    I imagine there’s going to be some education needed here, around bank lending?

    Well, this one’s a pretty simple bill. The federal government lends money every single day to big banks at 0.75% interest. All I’m asking for here is that the government should float money to the Department of Education to lend the money to students.

    So this isn’t direct Fed lending to students?

    No, it’s not like students line up at the discount window. It’s funny that we still call it a window, isn’t it? But no, the Federal Reserve floats the money to the Department of Education.

    Last time this was done, Republicans agreed not to double the rate, but there was an offset, a way that they paid for the cost to the government. Is there an offset here?

    The financial treatment should be the same as there is for the big banks now. Lending to big banks is not on budget. In fact, there’s a subsidy going on from the American taxpayer to the big banks. Why should banks get it while students are asked to pay nine times more? And the other part of this is that the federal student loan program is profitable. For every dollar invested in the student loan program, the U.S. taxpayer makes another 36 cents. That’s pretty amazing. So we can do this without burdening the taxpayer in the process.

  2. Bob111


    ridiculous. this will balloon the price of education way way further. f** this s**t. poor me..paying for my kid with my savings money on top of this giant bubble
  3. S2007S


    Something that doesn't matter on wallstreet is news like this....I don't even know why they even wasted time writing an article like this. It could be $18 trillion and it still wouldn't matter...
  4. Bob111


    if they can't pay 3-5% now, what makes her think that they will be able to pay 1%?
    it's going to be exactly same as with real estate. free money for everyone->price up trough the roof,followed by collapse,when no one can't pay the loan back. it is due to pop long time ago,but gvt doesn't want that.
  5. Bob111


    here is the thought- as cost of education approaching new highs -there is less and less applicants,who can afford the college regardless to % of the loan.
    you don't have to be genius to figure this out. just look at the sector\industry stocks

    feel free to study the charts for other for profit colleges
    as been said long time ago-many of them are funded by guess who? GS.
    and what this

    D-b**h is proposing is another bail out,but now for 'for profit education' industry. it have nothing to do with 'helping students' who 'deserve''s all lie..all those schmucks(on huffington and other websites comments),who is so happy about it-they can't see s** two steps ahead of them. retarded
  6. Exactly, the best thing for the financially illiterate airheads would be a complete dismantling of the finance mechanism (i.e. what is the "cash value" of a 4 year education) with no financing available?

    A small fraction of the current price.
  7. Bob111


    enough said. it's more or less bail out/keeping the bubble going for education industry
  8. piezoe


    I like the Warren proposal, but only when applied to tuition loans for attending non-profit educational institutions that have tax-payer subsidized tuitions. Tuition loans for attending private, non-profit educational institutions should be at the same interest rate only up to the average tuition cost of all public institutions, and amounts above that should borrowable at 10-year Treasury rate. Loans for tuition at for profit institutions should be at the market rate.

    I don't like the idea of subsidizing the profits of private, for profit, educational corporations with my tax dollars anymore than I like the idea of subsidizing Walmart Corporation, via tax-paid public assistance, so they can pay ridiculously low wages.

    Even though, for many years, we have had student loans subsidized at a lower than market rate we have not experienced tuition increases in our public universities above the actual inflation rate (not the official government rate). So I don't share the concerns of those that believe lowering the interest rate on student loans will cause tuition rates at public institutions to "mushroom." Those concerns might be very well-founded however with regard to for profit institutions, were their students able to borrow at extraordinarily low rates.

    Public university administrators, and especially state college boards, are very much aware of their mission and the necessity of maintaining tuition as low as possible. They struggle constantly against higher costs driven by inflation, and only raise tuition as a last resort.

    Cornell University will serve as a nice example. Cornell is an Ivy League school with a dual role as both a public, tax-subsidized, land grant institution and a private, endowed university. Cornell, therefore, has different tuitions depending on a student's program. The regular undergraduate tuition for most programs is 45K/yr, however the tuition for New York residents enrolled in agriculture or other land-grant-institution related programs is about 35% lower at 29K/yr. The latter would be an example of one of the highest publicly-subsidized tuitions, while at the same time illustrating how public institutions try to keep tuition down as low as possible. While 116K/4 years of tuition seems like a lot of money to many, it's not really all that much in 2013 dollars for an Ivy League education, not when compared with the 180K/4yr that students in non-land-grant programs at Cornell will pay.

    On the other hand, a resident of New Mexico can attend the University of New Mexico, a very fine school, for about 6K/yr in tuition. A resident of California can attend UCLA, still another of many fine state universities, for about 12.4K/yr in tuition. These latter two examples illustrate the typical range of annual tuition to be encountered in state universities -- for the most part, entirely manageable.

    The media loves gee whiz stories like that of the student that majored in Gender and Sexuality Studies, who can't find a good paying job, and owes 180K in student loans. These are rare exceptions, however, and please don't read into this any particular opinion re the value of such a program. I use it as an example of a program where high paying jobs for graduates would be relatively few -- a program that in fact exists at one of the nations most expensive universities, NYU. Let us not let these exceptions influence policy.
  9. "If you wish to keep slaves, you must have all kinds of guards. The cheapest way to have guards is to have the slaves pay taxes to finance their own guards. To fool the slaves, you tell them that they are not slaves and that they have Freedom. You tell them they need Law and Order to protect them against bad slaves. Then you tell them to elect a Government. Give them Freedom to vote and they will vote for their own guards and pay their salary. They will then believe they are Free persons. Then give them money to earn, count and spend and they will be too busy to notice the slavery they are in." --Alexander Warbucks
  10. Wow? $1 trillion in debt for student loans… That seems like an insane amount to owe just for an education. Does anyone honestly believe that the value of the education is worth that much?
    #10     May 22, 2013