First, this is the total amount of student debt in real time:
While one of the biggest complaints of #OccupyWallStreet protesters, and much of the balance of middle-class America, continues to be the burden of student loans, the paradox is that, as the USA Today reports once again on one of its favorite subjects, student loans are set to surpass $1 trillion in total notional for the first time in history on what appears to be relentless demand and interest for this cheap form of educational financing, making this debt burden the single largest form of consumer debt, well bigger than outstanding credit card debt, and smaller only compared to mortgage debt. "The amount of student loans taken out last year crossed the $100 billion mark for the first time and total loans outstanding will exceed $1 trillion for the first time this year. Americans now owe more on student loans than on credit cards, reports the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Students are borrowing twice what they did a decade ago after adjusting for inflation, the College Board reports. Total outstanding debt has doubled in the past five years — a sharp contrast to consumers reducing what's owed on home loans and credit cards." What explains this insatiable demand for this kind of debt? Well, it's cheap, it's easily accessible (the collateral is education), and it is fungible - a student can take out a loan, yet use part or all of the balance for tangential purchases (that iPhone 4S sure would make me cool). But this, like every other debt, comes at a price.
Per USA Today:
Taxpayers and other lenders have little risk of losing money on the loans, unlike mortgages made during the real estate bubble. Congress has given the lenders, the government included, broad collection powers, far greater than those of mortgage or credit card lenders. The debt can't be shed in bankruptcy.
The credit risk falls on young people who will start adult life deeper in debt, a burden that could place a drag on the economy in the future.
"Students who borrow too much end up delaying life-cycle events such as buying a car, buying a home, getting married (and) having children," says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org.
Naturally, just like in the credit bubble days, when NINJA loans were fast and furious, the lines in front of banks stretched around the block. Banks may or may not have known that the loans would be repaid, but nobody pressured borrowers to live in that big McMansion that "demanded" $1 down and a 99.9% LTV. Sure enough, when the day of reckoning comes, it is never the fault of the person who probably should have shown some restraint, but no: after all everyone else is doing it.
Well, it is the same thing now. And with generations of people indoctrinated that only those with a college degree can be successful, it is only obvious that student debt is now the next big bubble.
"It's going to create a generation of wage slavery," says Nick Pardini, a Villanova University graduate student in finance who has warned on a blog for investors that student loans are the next credit bubble — with borrowers, rather than lenders, as the losers.
Full-time undergraduate students borrowed an average $4,963 in 2010, up 63% from a decade earlier after adjusting for inflation, the College Board reports. What's happening:
Granted, unlike with the mortgage bubble collapse, this time we know, as Zero Hedge reported earlier in the week, that everyone is on the fraud. We quote from "The Fraud At The Heart Of Student Lending Exposed - The One Sentence Everyone Should Read"
A key reason why a preponderance of the population is fascinated with the student loan market is that as USA Today reported in a landmark piece last year, it is now bigger than ever the credit card market. And as the monthly consumer debt update from the Fed reminds us, the primary source of funding is none other than the US government. To many, this market has become the biggest credit bubble in America. Why do we make a big deal out of this? Because as Bloomberg reported last night, we now have prima facie evidence that the student loan market is not only an epic bubble, but it is also the next subprime! To wit: "Vince Sampson, president, Education Finance Council, said during a panel at the IMN ABS East Conference in Miami Monday that lenders are no longer pushing loans to people who can’t afford them." Re-read the last sentence as many times as necessary for it to sink in. Yes: just like before lenders were "pushing loans to people who can't afford them" which became the reason for the subprime bubble which has since spread to prime, but was missing the actual confirmation from authorities of just this action, this time around we have actual confirmation that student loans are being actually peddled to people who can not afford them. And with the government a primary source of lending, we will be lucky if tears is all this ends in.
So... debtors know it's a bubble, lenders know it's a bubble, everyone knows it's a bubble, yet it is growing faster now than ever before.
If nothing this is a fantastic exercise in observing a slow at first, then fast-motion train wreck from the side. It is without a shadow of a doubt, that not only will the student debt bubble pop, but writedowns on amounts outstanding will be massive, potentially resulting in another hit of 50% to total notionals, or about $500 billion. And since the borrowers will be fully tapped out, and the lenders will plead ignorance, and control the regulators and administration any way, is there any doubt who will once again be forced to pay for this upcoming bail out? This is something that does not require a college degree to figure out...