The average debt for a college graduate has soared 50% in the past decade, after inflation, according to the Project on Student Debt, a non-profit advocacy group. Just as record-low mortgage rates have eased the impact of soaring home prices, low student-loan rates have let borrowers cut their payments, softening the impact of rising debt.
"Low interest rates have served as a sort of amnesty for graduates with debt," says Robert Shireman, founder of the Project on Student Debt. "We haven't seen what the real impact is of much higher levels of borrowing."
Now, with interest rates rising, that amnesty is about to end. The 6.8% fixed rate for Stafford loans, the most popular student loan, will replace a variable rate that used to be adjusted every July 1, based on Treasury bills. Under the old system, borrowers could consolidate their loans when rates were low. And they could lock in that low rate for the life of their loans.
I swear, we have to be coming close to a tipping point on the national issue of debt and accountability--for the lenders and the government. Credit cards, student loans, bankruptcy laws--the model we have isn't working.
PS. If you like really long comment threads, here's one on Daily Kos on this story.