Sunday, January 22, 2012

Student Loans and Emergencies

From the Incidental Economist's comment section:

As a resident manager of David’s House , a beautiful private nonprofit home away from home for families of sick children at Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital , like a Ronald McDonald House, one of the saddest and most frustrating things I saw was student loan collectors that would not work with parents who had run out of forbearance time to reduce or temporarily waive student loan payments despite their medical emergencies. Even the federal government will operate this way when a student loan goes into collections. Will not work with the debtor at all. We had collection agencies tracking down parents at our facility because, of course, parents who were living there temporarily needed to make the phone number known instead of keeping it confidential. The student loan crisis: another problem that you economists should address.

The decision to make student loans immune to bankruptcy is going to be a problem in the long run, at least so long as the totals become so high.  I meet a surprising number of students with > $100,000 in debt.  It's one thing to allow large debt to occur as part of developing human capital.  But the punishment meted out to people when their lives go wrong seems way disproportionate to the decision to borrow.  This is even more true when you look at the employment rate among Americans without a college degree.

It makes education into a high stakes gamble (at for those who are not already wealthy) instead of a public good that we provide to improve human capital.


  1. Student education loans are guaranteed by the govt, meaning if you default on them, the govt will reimburse the lender for the amount you were credited. Because of this guarantee, education loans are different from most other types of debts, and education loan business collection agencies needs to be dealt with in a slightly different way.


  2. Totally agree with the issues involved, but it seems that the fast application of penalties among people with limited resources creates more hardship then it has to.