This is from Investors Business Daily.
In 2010, Obama eliminated the federal guaranteed loan program, which let private lenders offer student loans at low interest rates. Now, the Department of Education is the only place to go for such loans.
Obama sold this government takeover as a way to save money — why bear the costs of guaranteeing private loans, he said, when the government could cut out the middleman and lend the money itself?
The cost savings didn’t happen. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office just increased its 10-year forecast for the loan program’s costs by $27 billion, or 30%.
What did happen was an explosive growth in the amount of federal student loan debt. President Clinton phased in direct federal lending in 1993 as an option, but over the next 15 years the amount of loans was fairly stable. The result of Obama’s action is striking. In each of the past six years, federal direct student loan debt has climbed by more than $100 billion. (See chart.)
And since Obama keeps making it easier and easier to avoid repaying those loans, it’s a problem that taxpayers will eventually have to shoulder.
Through words and actions, Obama has encouraged irresponsibility on the part of student borrowers. He constantly talks as if student debt were an unfair burden they unknowingly had foisted upon them.
At the same time, he’s made it easier and easier to avoid paying back student loans in full. Earlier this year, for example, Obama expanded eligibility for his “pay as you earn” program, which limits loan payments to 10% of income, with any debt left after 20 years forgiven.
Students got the message. The St. Louis Fed reports that 27.3% of student loans in repayment are at least a month behind in payments. That’s a far higher delinquency rate than any other kind of debt, and it’s significantly higher than the delinquency rate 10 years ago.
“This overall level of delinquency is very concerning,” concluded authors Juan Sanchez and Lijin Zhu.
A 2013 Consumer Financial Protection Board report found that less than half of this federal loan money was actually being paid. About 30% was held by borrowers still in school or in a grace period, another chunk in deferment or forbearance, and almost 14% was in default.
The problem here is that whenever the government nationalizes something that the private sector is doing, it always creates a problem. Let me explain. If student loans (or mortgage loans) are run solely by the private sector, then the motivation for lending money out at interest is to make money for the bank’s depositors and investors. In other words, because the bankers are in a free market and have to compete for depositors and investors, they have an interest in making sure that the loans they make get paid back.
But when the government takes over loans, they are not interested in being wise with the money they lend out – it’s not their money. They want to lend out as much as possible today in order to buy votes, and then kick the can down the road on the repayment. So instead of being careful about asking “will this get paid back?” they ask “how can I borrow from the future in order to buy as many votes as I can right now?” And that’s how we got the housing crisis of 2008, as well as this trillion-dollar student loan crisis.
When you take the profit motive out of the lending decision, then money gets lend to people who will never be able to pay it back. No private bank that has to answer to shareholders hands out money to students who want to study underwater basket-weaving. But the government does. They want to buy as many votes as possible. And besides, this is not their money. They are borrowing it from the future earnings of the very students they are giving it to! That’s what happens when you let big government decide everything.
Whenever big government politicians want to buy votes with taxpayer money, they always sell it to the people with sob stories about some poor, helpless group of people will suffer through no fault of their own. There are a lot of voters who will vote for politicians who cry crocodile tears for them, especially ones who don’t understand economics. There is no free lunch – somebody has to pay. Democrats are basically throwing a party for students, and then mailing them the (unexpected) bill for it, with interest.