Web Wealth: The student-loan crunch

At the Lifehacker site, a writer says that even if Congress fails to reach a deal, Stafford loans remain a bargain.
At the Lifehacker site, a writer says that even if Congress fails to reach a deal, Stafford loans remain a bargain.
Posted: July 15, 2013

Unless politicians compromise, new government-backed student loans will carry 6.8 percent interest rates - up from the 3.4 percent enjoyed by families since 2007. What does it all mean?

The Lifehacker site has a post by Eric Ravenscraft that helps sort out the current debate over the interest rate students will pay on new federally subsidized college loans, the so-called Stafford loans. Even if the rate goes up, Stafford loans will remain the bargain loan for students, Ravenscraft notes.

A "paying for college" page at the site of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a video about how student debt became a $1 trillion issue in the United States. The bureau, a watchdog for consumers, provides an outline of steps that students and their families should take to, at the very least, know what they are getting into when they borrow for college. The page starts with a simple timeline of links to guide students from applying for college to repaying their debts after graduation.

The real crisis for college students isn't loan rates but the soaring cost of college, writes Patricia Murphy at the Daily Beast. "Experts in higher education say that by focusing on making borrowing cheap, while public grant money dries up and student-loan debt balloons past $1 trillion, Congress is missing the point altogether," she wrote. Colleges engaged in the "prestige arms race" are piling on expensive sports programs, luxury accommodations, high salaries, and other costly extras to draw students. The resulting escalation of costs for students is in many ways the more critical issue. Fixes include "trimming bloated administrations, eliminating undersubscribed majors, cutting sports programs that cost too much money, or reducing generous employee benefits."

Factors behind rising student debt are explored in this article at the Brookings Institution site. It notes that college still seems to pave the way to employment. Meanwhile, however, as much as tuitions have increased over recent years, student loan volume has increased even more. Predictably, delinquency rates on all that debt has shot up, too.

Should the Federal Reserve bail out students? Must banks' influence be cut down to size? How about a "student-debt jubilee"? These are among ideas put on the table at BillMoyers.com, the site for the PBS show Moyers & Company, which asks, "So how do we relieve some of the burden carried by the more than 38 million Americans with outstanding student loans and make sure that college is affordable for future generations?"


Contact Reid Kanaley at rkanaley@phillynews.com, 215-854-5114 or @ReidKan.

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