Student loans are now 90 per cent public, in an eerie echo of the housing crisis.
Rapid run-ups in debt are the single biggest predictor of market trouble. So it is worth noting that over the past 10 years the amount of student loan debt in the US has grown by 170 per cent, to a whopping $1.4tn — more than car loans, or credit card debt. Indeed, as an expert at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently pointed out to me, since 2008 we have basically swapped a housing debt bubble for a student loan bubble. No wonder NY Federal Reserve president Bill Dudley fretted last week that high levels of student debt and default are a “headwind to economic activity”.
In America, 44m people have student debt. Eight million of those borrowers are in default. That’s a default rate which is still higher than pre-crisis levels — unlike the default rate for mortgages, credit cards or even car loans.
Rising college education costs will not help shrink those numbers. While the headline consumer price index is 2.7 per cent, between 2016 and 2017 published tuition and fee prices rose by 9 per cent at four-year state institutions, and 13 per cent at posher private colleges.