Student debt refers to the debt incurred by an individual to pay for education-related expenses. This debt is most commonly assumed to pay for tertiary education, such as university.

The amount loaned or the loan agreement is often referred to as a student loan. In many countries, student loans work differently compared to mortgages with differing laws governing renegotiation and bankruptcy. As with most other types of debt, student debt may be considered defaulted after a given period of no response to requests by the school or the lender for information, payment, or negotiation. Afterward, the debt is turned over to a student loan guarantor or a collection agency.

Canada edit

As of 2018, Canada is ranked third in the world (behind Russia and South Korea) for the percentage of people ages 25–34 who have completed tertiary education.[1] As of September 2012, the average debt for a Canadian post-university student was 28,000 Canadian dollars, with this accumulated debt taking an average of 14 years to fully repay based on an average starting salary of $39,523.[2] To assist low-income citizens with student debt, Canada's Interest Relief program offers a six-month reprieve from mandatory payments for up to a total of 30 months, during which the government covers interest, preventing the loan amount from increasing further.[3] Students are relieved of their debt after 15 years.[4] As a whole, Canadians accumulated over $15 billion in 2010, rising to about $18.2 billion in 2017 (both figures are only on government-backed loans). In 2018, however, the total student debt (for both government and private sponsored loans) was $28 billion.[5][6] In 2023, the Federal Government permanently suspended the accumulation of interest on Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans under the Canada Student Financial Assistance Program. [7]

Chile edit

In 2014, a Chilean activist, artist Francisco Tapia, known as "Papas Fritas" (French Fries), "Burned $500 million worth of debt papers" from Viña del Mar University and displayed the ashes in a van as an art project. The university was being shut down due to financial irregularities. "It is a concrete fact that the papers were burned. They are gone, burned completely, and there's no debt," said Papas Fritas in his first U.S. broadcast interview. "Since these papers don't exist anymore, there's no way to charge the students."[8]

Denmark edit

There are no tuition fees for Danish and EU students in Denmark. Students in Denmark also receive student grants from the government to enroll in an institution of higher education. Every Dane over the age of 18 is entitled to this public support if they decide to further their education. The scheme and the conditions for grants and loans are different if they are a foreign citizen. However, financial support is still available if the applicant is from an EU member state.[9] Apart from the public support, there are many corporate-sponsored scholarships for international students with different requirements.[citation needed]

Finland edit

For students from Switzerland, the EU, or the EEA, there is no tuition fee for students studying at Finnish universities.[10] There are, however, many exemptions for non-Finnish citizens studying at a Finnish university to not pay tuition as well. In addition to going to college for free, students also receive student grants from the government. These grants are generally used for housing and compensate for up to 80% of rent for students who live independently and are not qualified to receive child benefits.[11] Through Kela, 40% of students take out student loans in addition to student grants. Student loans average about €650 a month for higher education within Finland and an average amount of €800 a month for Finnish students studying abroad.[12] These loans are not through Kela itself but are guaranteed loans through the student's bank of choice. Besides student loans and grants, Finland also compensates its citizens and others who qualify with a meal subsidy, school transport subsidy, and a student loan compensation for students who finish schooling in a target time.[13][14]

In August 2017, Finland saw student loan drawdowns double to €143 million from August 2016 as a result of being able to borrow €650 a month from the previous €400 a month. The reform for financial aid resulted in students who qualify for government-guaranteed loans increasing by over 60%.[15]

France edit

The average tuition fees for a bachelor's degree in France amount to around €190 a year, approximately €620 a year for engineering degrees, around €260 a year for a master's degree, and around €400 a year for a PhD.[16] These fee structures are similar to those in Germany. Housing, transportation, and health insurance costs are not included in the tuition fees.[17] Students can take out loans to pay for these expenses. However, less than 2% of students take out loans, as there is financial assistance available to pay for the full tuition or half of the tuition for low-income families, depending on their needs.[18]

Germany edit

Germany has both private and public universities, with the majority being public universities, which is part of the reason their graduates do not have as much debt. For undergraduate studies, public universities are free. However, they have an enrollment fee of no more than €250 per year, which is roughly US$270.[19] Private universities, on the other hand, have an average tuition cost of €10,000 per semester, which is about US$10,700.[19] Private universities account for 7.1% of total enrollment, with the rest attending public universities.[20] The only expense students take out loans for in public universities is the living cost, which ranges from €3,600 to €8,200 a year, depending on the university location.[21] However, the repayment of this loan is interest-free, and no borrower pays more than €10,000, regardless of the borrowed amount.[21] In 2005, the average debt at graduation was €5,600, which is around US$6,000.[22] The chance to gain a bachelor's through well-respected universities at a reasonable price without interest-packed loans attracts many foreign students, as seen through increased enrollment of students from all around the world.

United Kingdom edit

Followed closely by the United States, the United Kingdom has some of the highest rates of student debt.[23] The growth of these student debt rates over the last 50 years has largely been attributed to the government's desire to increase student participation in higher education.[24] Now, the UK has adopted a plan based on “Income Contingent Loans” to allow students to pay back loans at a rate proportional to their level of income post-graduation.[25]

There is concern about possible changes in government policy forcing graduates to pay back more.[26] The Institute for Fiscal Studies claims that 75% of graduates will never repay all their debts.[27] According to economist Sebastian Burnside, student debt is the fastest-growing type of borrowing and is rapidly becoming economically significant.[28]

In 2015, Central Saint Martins student Brooke Purvis announced that he would burn his student loan as a form of protest art, raising awareness about student debt. It is argued that the artwork addresses the subject matter of the materialism of money and brings to light the political issues of the U.K student loan system.[29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36]

United States edit

In 2023, the typical federal student loan borrower owed nearly $40,000 and there were approximately 45 million student loan borrowers. Only mortgage debt is greater than student loan debt in the United States.[37]

History edit

Many factors are accountable for student debt. One factor is the decline of the income premium for graduates compared to non-graduates. It has declined to historic lows for those born since 1980 (with more pronounced downward trajectories for those with post-graduate degrees).[38] Another factor is the amount of interest on the loans. A third factor is the new guidelines developed by the federal government. There are now new rules deciding who can borrow, as well as how much debt they can take on. Several scholars attribute the student debt crisis to the influence of neoliberal policies and practices, which have bolstered tuition costs while simultaneously reducing state funding for higher education.[39]

During the Reagan presidency student debt increased, and following the Great Recession climbed significantly as states slashed public funding for higher education. By comparison, as late as the 1960s, student debt did not significantly impact American life.[40]

In 2018, a total of 44.2 million borrowers owed a total of over $1.5 trillion in student debt. In addition to more borrowers and the total amount owed having more than doubled (up 250%) from $600 billion to $1.5 trillion in 10 years, according to Forbes Magazine,[41] the rate of delinquency greater than 90 days, or default, has doubled to over 11% nationwide, according to the Federal Reserve.[42] A report by the Brookings Institution warned that the student loan default rate could reach nearly 40 percent by 2023.[43]

In 2019, Theresa Sweet and other student loan debtors filed a claim against the United States Department of Education, arguing that they had been defrauded by their colleges. The debtors filed under a rule known as Borrower Defense to Repayment.[44] In November 2022, federal judge William Alsup ruled for immediate relief for about 200,000 student debtors, and in April 2023 US Supreme Justice Elena Kagan declined to grant emergency relief to three for-profit colleges.[45]

Statistics edit

Student loan debt rose from $480.1 billion (3.5% GDP) in Q1 2006 to $1,683 billion (7.8% GDP) in Q1 2020.

There are two types of loans students borrow in the US: federal loans and private loans. Federal loans have a fixed interest rate, usually lower than private loans' interest, set annually by Congress. The direct subsidized loan with the maximum amount of $5,500 has an interest rate of 4.45%, while the direct plus loan with the maximum amount of $20,500 has an interest rate of 7%.[46] As for private loans, there are more options like fixed interest rates, variable interest rates, and income-based monthly plans, whose interest rates vary depending on the lender, credit history, and cosigners. The average interest rate for a private loan in 2017 was 9.66%.[47] The Economist reported in June 2014 that U.S. student loan debt exceeded $1.2 trillion with over 7 million debtors in default. In 2014, there was approximately $1.3 trillion of outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. that affected 44 million borrowers who had an average outstanding loan balance of $37,172.[47] As of 2018, outstanding student loan debt totals $1.5 trillion.[48]

The interest rates are a major factor in the alarming debt numbers; however, the booming prices of college are another major factor in the tremendous student debt in the US. The public universities increased their fees by a total of 27% over the five years ending in 2012, or 20% adjusted for inflation. Public university students paid an average of almost $8,400 annually for in-state tuition, with out-of-state students paying more than $19,000. For two decades ending in 2012, college costs rose 1.6% more than inflation each year. Government funding per student fell by 27% between 2007 and 2012. Student enrollments rose from 15.2 million in 1999 to 20.4 million in 2011, but have fallen each year since 2010–2011.[49][50] Bloomberg reported in July 2014 that "The biggest growth in the program came in the past decade, as student debt rose an average of 14 percent a year, to $966 billion in 2012 from $364 billion in 2004, according to New York Fed data."[51]

Student loan borrowers that attended a for-profit and two-year community colleges earn low annual salaries, an average of $22,000 for people withdrawing from schools as of 2010. This means that these people have trouble paying back their loans. The new evidence is reliable with the previous data. For example, the statistics show that default rates are essentially lower within the demographic of borrowers with large loans than within borrowers with small loans. However, the new evidence, which goes back twenty years, shows how much the scenery of borrowing has changed. Currently, most borrowers are older and attended a for-profit or two year community college. About ten years ago, the standard borrower was an established student at a four-year university.[52]

In January 2019, the Federal Reserve said that student loan debt has more than doubled in the last decade, and is forcing many in the millennial generation to delay buying homes.[53] A 2019 survey by Bankrate found that student loan debt is also forcing millennials to delay other financial and life milestones, such as building emergency savings, saving for retirement, or paying off other debts.[54] Beth Akers, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, points out that 66% of millennials have no college debt; most of whom do have debt proportional to their income; and that for those who drop out or fail to get a high-income job after getting an expensive degree, there are government programs that limit payments to a reasonable percentage of income and that forgive loans after 10–20 years if they cannot be repaid.[55]

Social and political reactions edit

The growing problem of student debt has caused many reactions from people throughout the United States. As a result, the Occupy Colleges and Occupy Student Debt movements merged in 2012 in an effort to gain support from students around the country.[56] There have been significant efforts made via social media for the Occupy Student Debt campaign. In particular, students all over the United States have posted their personal student debt testimonies.[57] While some success stories of students eliminating debt have been reported,[58] they are met with heavy skepticism. Since last October, Occupy Student Debt has provided a platform for over 800 students to share their horror stories.[56] Because of this, other organizations, such as Rebuild the Dream, Education Trust, and the Young Invincible, have joined in the effort and started similar platforms. The Occupy College movement itself has staged over ten direct actions.[56][59] They also gathered over 31,000 signatures on the White House's petition site, “We the People.”. As a result, President Obama announced the Pay as the person Earn initiative. Another petition, titled 'Support the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012' on, which seeks similar relief for student borrowers, has gotten over one million signatures.[60][61][62] HR 4170: “The Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012” would give relief to borrowers with both federal and private student loans.[63] HR 4170 also includes the “10-10” programs, which allow borrowers to pay 10% of their discretionary income for ten years with the remaining balance forgiven afterwards.[63]

In April 2012, student loan debt reached US$1 trillion.[64] The severity of the student debt burden represents such a threat to the middle class that some have demanded a general bailout.[65][66] Anthropologist David Graeber, author of Debt: The First 5000 Years, argues that student debt is "destroying the imagination of youth" and says, "If there’s a way of a society committing mass suicide, what better way than to take all the youngest, most energetic, creative, and joyous people in the society and saddle them with, like, $50,000 of debt so they have to be slaves? There goes the music. There goes the culture. There goes everything new that pops out. And in a way, this is what’s happened to our society. We’re a society that has lost any ability to incorporate interesting, creative and eccentric people."[67]

On November 12, 2015, students organized rallies at more than 100 college campuses across the United States to protest crippling student loan debt and to advocate for tuition-free higher education at public colleges and universities. The demonstrations took place just days after fast food workers went on strike for a minimum wage of $15 an hour and union rights.[68]

A February 2018 research paper from the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College argues that government cancellation student debt in the United States would result in rising consumer demand, along with economic growth and increased employment. Over the following decade, the GDP would increase by between $86 billion and $108 billion annually, which would result in an increase of between 1.2 and 1.5 million jobs and a decreased unemployment rate of 0.22 to 0.36 percent.[69]

In April 2019, Elizabeth Warren, a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts seeking the nomination in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries, added a proposal to her presidential platform to cancel student debt and make public colleges tuition-free.[70] In June 2019, U.S. Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders, who was also seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination, offered a plan for the cancellation of all 1.8 trillion in outstanding student loan debt which would be paid for with a tax on Wall Street speculation.[71]

According to a Hill-HarrisX poll, 58% of registered voters are in favor of making public colleges tuition free and also support abolishing all outstanding student loan debt.[72]

It was revealed in September 2019 that the U.S. Army is using the student debt crisis to boost recruitment, more so than the ongoing conflicts it is engaged in, and because of this exceeded its recruitment goals. The Head of Army Recruiting Command, Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, said that "One of the national crises right now is student loans, so $31,000 is [about] the average. They can get out [of the Army] after four years, 100 percent paid for state college anywhere in the United States."[73]

Some studies have shown that student debt can have significant effects on a student's mental health and attitude towards education.[74] These effects include feelings of anxiety, nervousness, and tension, as well as difficulty sleeping and worry about criticism from peers.[75] Student debt and these feelings associated with it have also been shown to negatively impact the student's academic performance.[76]

In a video report from libertarian Reason magazine, analyst Emma Camp assessed the impact of outright debt forgiveness and concluded that inequities exist in abolishing all student debt outright as opposed to allowing individuals most in dire need to declare bankruptcy and relieve themselves of student debts that they find themselves to be unable to pay back. Camp argues that wholesale debt forgiveness would instead exacerbate inflation and worsen the economy in the United States in particular, or anywhere that such indiscriminate debt forgiveness were to take place.[77]

In April 2024, the Biden administration initiated the forgiveness of $7.4 billion in student loan debt for 277,000 borrowers, as part of its broader strategy to address the issue. This action added to the $153 billion already forgiven for nearly 4.3 million individuals, reflecting the administration's ongoing efforts in tackling student loan debt.[78]

See also edit

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Further reading edit

External links edit