Mortgaging your way to a college education

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) came out with a report that confirmed what many of us were projecting. The CFPB has noted that both private and federal student loan debt has now hit the $1 trillion dollar mark. This is a big deal for a variety of reasons and will have an impact on the housing market for years to come. For new home buyers many are already stretching every dollar they can through loan down payment loans via FHA insured products. More and more Americans are attending college but at the same time, many more are plunging into massive levels of debt. Student default rates are surging at a time when the cost of going to college is at all time highs. Public universities are hiking tuition since state budgets are in poor shape. This is important because a college education is now becoming the second most expensive purchase for most Americans right behind housing.

The rise in tuition costs

The University of California recently stated that should the November ballot initiative not pass, tuition is likely to increase an additional 20 percent:

uc tuition and fees

Source: Keep California Promise

“(Contra Costa Times) California voters know their K-12 schools will see dramatic cuts and perhaps the nation's shortest school year if they reject a November tax increase. Now, the University of California has revealed its stake in the election: a 20-percent tuition hike for its nearly 182,000 undergraduates.

UC's annual cost could bump to $14,670 a year -- one more threat among many if Gov. Jerry Brown's sales tax and tax on the wealthy fails. California State University students would see their tuitions leap 5 percent to $6,120 a year.”

This is a significant increase. As recently as 2005 the annual tuition to attend a UC was roughly $6,000. It is now double that and should the tax measures fail, it is likely to jump to close to $15,000 per year. You also have many students enrolling in for-profit institutions and going into deep debt:

2 year schools private loans

Source: CFPB

Most of the private student loan debt at two year institutions is flowing into the for-profit sector that is facing default rates similar to what was experienced in the subprime mortgage sector. This is important to note since the return on many of these institutions is minimal. It is hard to imagine but student loan debt is much worse than housing debt. Why? With a mortgage, if you have not noticed, you can stop paying and it will take some time before you lose your home. After losing your home in most states your liability on the property ends and your only penalty is a dinged credit score for a few years. Student debt does not go away. It will follow you around similar to unpaid taxes. This is why I found this part in the report interesting:

cosigned loans

In California, many of those buying these $500,000 homes with low interest rates think they got a major deal. It is likely they are middle class so they are unlikely to qualify for many grants and aid. So many of these home buyers with kids are “school obsessed” so they are likely aiming for elite public universities or top private schools that cost upwards of $50,000 per year. As you can see from the above chart, many parents are co-signing the loans for their children. A student going to a private school might end up having $100,000 or more in debt when they are done and many are moving back home. That co-signer is on the hook as well. The data shows growing default rates:

gross defaults

There is no guarantee of a good paying job in this market even with a college degree. The unemployment rate of those with private student loans is 16 percent (twice the nationwide headline figure). Of those with a bachelor degree the unemployment rate was 11 percent. As previously noted, more private student loan debt is going to for-profit institutions so this is likely to push the unemployment rate even higher than the headline unemployment rate. So you have to wonder how eager will these young graduates be to purchase that first home and take on more debt?

Homeownership rates have fallen significantly for those 34 and younger:

HomeownershipRateAge

It is important to note most of the student debt problems are hitting the younger generation:

Past-due-balance-by-age

Over two-thirds of past due debt is hitting with those 39 and younger. A good amount is hitting the under 30 crowd. Remember those co-signed loans? There is little doubt why the housing recovery has been so tepid nationwide. In California, home prices are still out of sync in many locations but just think about a more realistic nationwide scenario. A young graduate comes out with $50,000 in student debt and the starter homes they are looking at cost $150,000. This is very typical. How easily can they shoulder that new debt amount? Are they even willing to take this new loan on? Virtually every other debt segment has pulled back since the recession hit outside of student debt. Home ownership rates for younger Americans have fallen dramatically in the last decade and this burden of “other” debt is becoming a big issue. It is also impacting baby boomers as kids boomerang back home. Another trillion dollar debt market with major issues. You don’t need a Ph.D. to know this is a big problem.

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