Life With Student Loan Debt


Today I want to address rising high school seniors who will be stepping onto a college campus for the first time a year from now. This coming December or next spring, you will be receiving the financial aid packages from those colleges where you've been accepted. Many (if not most) of those aid packages will include student loan offers. The decisions you -- and your family -- make about dealing with those loans, if accepted, can have lifelong effects.

If you've followed my articles here on College Confidential over the years, you'll know that I am a passionate opponent of excessive student loan debt. The amount of debt owed by young people today across America is mind-boggling. Consider this statement from an article -- Student Debt Crushes Homebuying Dreams For Millennials , Now Delayed 8 Years -- that I will be further exploring down the page: “The student debt crisis is rapidly expanding, hitting a new record high of $1.6 trillion in 2019 and surpassing auto loans and credit card debt post-GFC [Global Financial Crisis]."

One point six trillion dollars. I don't know about you, but I cannot wrap my mind around that number: $1,600,000,000,000,000. If I got all those zeros right, another way to look at it is: 1,600 billion dollars. Or 1.6 million million dollars. That's how much debt is out there in America spread across current and former participants in higher education.

I've noted some of the side effects of this debt before(citing from a survey):

… 3 major takeaways about the psychological effects of student loan debt

– People are losing sleep over their student loan debt

First of all, if you ever lose sleep due to stress over paying your student loans, you're not alone. More than half of the respondents in this survey reported suffering from sleepless nights due to debt — 64.5 percent, to be specific …

– People are experiencing physical symptoms from their stress

More than 67 percent of respondents reported having physical symptoms of anxiety due to the stress from their student loan debt.

As if losing sleep wasn't bad enough, these symptoms include headaches (71.5 percent), muscle tension (55.9 percent) and upset stomach (50 percent). Other symptoms included rapid heartbeat, tremors, fatigue and shortness of breath …

– Some isolate themselves because of their debt

Depression and anxiety can lead to self-imposed isolation. More than 74 percent of respondents reported shutting other people out of their lives often due to their student loan debt stress...

As if those issues aren't bad enough, let's get back to Student Debt Crushes Homebuying Dreams For Millennials , Now Delayed 8 Years. While psychological issues certainly weigh heavily on the soul, practical complications from debt can change the course of one's life's plans. Citing some specifics from the article:

- About 44 million Americans, or 20 percent of adults, have insurmountable student debts. About 11 percent of them are in student loan default, and by 2023, as many as 40 percent could be underwater.

- The life-altering impacts of student loan debt on millions of millennials is debilitating towards their financial health.

Many are drowning in student debt, working in the gig-economy with two jobs and can hardly afford rising rents and necessary food items.

- At least 60 percent of millennials have no savings,and their poor financial health has contributed to the reason why so many young adults can't afford a down payment on their first home.

- A new study published by the Urban Institute says the current homeownership rate of young adults is 37 percent. That's 8 percent lower than the homeownership rate Generation X and baby boomers had at the same age.

- About 40 percent of millennials have student debt, according to the AARP, and Clever Real Estate says the student debt has delayed home buying by eight years for millennials.

- The Federal Reserve has said that "a $1,000 increase in student loan debt lowers the homeownership rate by about 1.5 percentage points for public 4-year college-goers during their mid-20s, equivalent to an average delay of 2.5 months in attaining homeownership." So that means with the average student about $37,0000 in debt, that's a 7.7-year delay in home buying.

- In 2012, about 71 percent of all millennials graduating from college had a student loan. The average debt load has quickly increased over time, moving to $37,000 from nearly $9,500 in the early 1990s. Today's levels are 3x higher than 2006 levels.

And it's not just home buying that has been delayed, many of these millennials have avoided weddings and starting a family because their debts have limited their economic mobility. [my emphasis]

And finally, this closing opinion (subject to the unfolding of future realities):

History will show millennials will be known as the "lost generation," as their ability to participate in the American dream of homebuying was cut short by student debt servicing payments. And with the next recession lurking around the corner, millennials could soon find themselves without a job and back in their parents' basements.

I urge you to read the entire article. It has dramatic graphics that illustrate the points highlighted above. It's definitely time well spent.

I hate to be negative and pessimistic, but with current and former students suffering under their respective shares of $1.6B of debt, I have to continue my campaign of caution from year to year, warning future collegians of the financial quicksand they must avoid. Thus, when those aid packages arrive over the next seven months or so, think carefully and rationally about the consequences of your decisions. What you decide can have unintended, far-reaching effects.