Three Key Facts from the Center for Microeconomic Data’s 2022 Student Loan Update
Today, researchers from the Center for Microeconomic Data released the 2022 Student Loan Update, which contains statistics summarizing who holds student loans along with characteristics of these balances. To compute these statistics, we use the New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel (CCP), a nationally representative 5 percent sample of all U.S. adults with an Equifax credit report. For this update, we focus on individuals with a student loan on their credit report. The update is linked here and shared in the student debt section of the Center for Microeconomic Data’s website. In this post, we highlight three facts from the current student loan landscape.
Who Are the Federal Student Loan Borrowers and Who Benefits from Forgiveness?
The pandemic forbearance for federal student loans was recently extended for a sixth time—marking a historic thirty-month pause on federal student loan payments. The first post in this series uses survey data to help us understand which borrowers are likely to struggle when the pandemic forbearance ends. The results from this survey and the experience of some federal borrowers who did not receive forbearance during the pandemic suggest that delinquencies could surpass pre-pandemic levels after forbearance ends. These concerns have revived debates over the possibility of blanket forgiveness of federal student loans. Calls for student loan forgiveness entered the mainstream during the 2020 election with most proposals centering around blanket federal student loan forgiveness (typically $10,000 or $50,000) or loan forgiveness with certain income limits for eligibility. Several studies (examples here, here, and here) have attempted to quantify the costs and distribution of benefits of some of these policies. However, each of these studies either relies on data that do not fully capture the population that owes student loan debt or does not separate student loans owned by the federal government from those owned by commercial banks and are thus not eligible for forgiveness with most proposals. In this post, we use representative data from anonymized credit reports that allows us to identify federal loans, calculate the total cost of these proposals, explore important heterogeneity in who owes federal student loans, and examine who would likely benefit from federal student loan forgiveness.
Student Loan Repayment during the Pandemic Forbearance
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought substantial financial uncertainty for many Americans. In response, executive and legislative actions in March and April 2020 provided unprecedented debt relief by temporarily lowering interest rates on Direct federal student loans to 0 percent and automatically placing these loans into administrative forbearance. As a result, nearly 37 million borrowers have not been required to make payments on their student loans since March 2020, resulting in an estimated $195 billion worth of waived payments through April 2022. However, 10 million borrowers with private loans or Family Federal Education Loan (FFEL) loans owned by commercial banks were not granted the same relief and continued to make payments during the pandemic. Data show that Direct federal borrowers slowed their paydown, with very few making voluntary payments on their loans. FFEL borrowers, who were not covered by the automatic forbearance, struggled with their debt payments during this time. The difficulties faced by these borrowers in managing their student loans and other debts suggest that Direct borrowers will face rising delinquencies once forbearance ends and payments resume.
Uneven Distribution of Household Debt by Gender, Race, and Education
Household debt has risen markedly since 2013 and amounts to more than $15 trillion dollars. While the aggregate volume of household debt has been well-documented, literature on the gender, racial and education distribution of debt is lacking, largely because of an absence of adequate data that combine debt, demographic, and education information. In a three-part series beginning with this post, we seek to bridge this gap. In this first post, we focus on differences in debt holding behavior across race and gender. Specifically, we explore gender and racial disparities in different types of household debt and delinquencies—for auto, mortgage, credit card, and student loans—while distinguishing between students pursuing associate’s (AA) and bachelor’s (BA) degrees. In the second post in this series, we investigate gender and racial disparities in delinquencies across these various kinds of consumer debt. We close with a third post where we try to understand some of the mechanisms behind differences in debt and delinquencies across gender and race.
Mortgage Rates Decline and (Prime) Households Take Advantage
Today, the New York Fed’s Center for Microeconomic Data reported that household debt balances increased by $206 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020, marking a $414 billion increase since the end of 2019. But the COVID pandemic and ensuing recession have marked an end to the dynamics in household borrowing that have characterized the expansion since the Great Recession, which included robust growth in auto and student loans, while mortgage and credit card balances grew more slowly. As the pandemic took hold, these dynamics were altered. One shift in 2020 was a larger bump up in mortgage balances. Mortgage balances grew by $182 billion, the biggest uptick since 2006, boosted by historically high volumes of originations. Here, we take a close look at the composition of mortgage originations, which neared $1.2 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2020, the highest single-quarter volume seen since our series begins in 2000. The Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit and this analysis are based on the New York Fed’s Consumer Credit Panel, which is itself based on anonymized Equifax credit data.
Just Released: Racial Disparities in Student Loan Outcomes
A $20 billion rise in student loan balances in the third quarter of this year contributed to a $92 billion increase in total household debt, according to the latest Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit from the New York Fed’s Center for Microeconomic Data. This post explores racial disparities in student loan outcomes using information about the borrowers’ locations, grouping zip codes based upon which racial group constitutes the majority of an area’s residents.
Do Expansions in Health Insurance Affect Student Loan Outcomes?
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is arguably the biggest policy intervention in health insurance in the United States since the passage of Medicaid and Medicare in 1965. The Act was signed into law in March 2010, and by 2016 approximately 20 to 24 million additional Americans were covered with health insurance. Such an extension of insurance coverage could affect not only medical bills, but also educational, employment, and broader financial outcomes. In this post, we take an initial look at the relationship between the ACA and higher education financing choices and outcomes. We find evidence that expansions in healthcare coverage may influence both the prevalence of student loans and loan repayment behavior. The evidence suggests that individuals covered by ACA-related expansions are taking out slightly more loans and taking a longer time to start repayment.
Are Student Loan Defaults Cyclical? It Depends
This post is the second in a two-part series on student loan default behavior. In the first post , we studied how educational characteristics (school type and selectivity, graduation, and major) and family background relate to the incidence of student loan default. In this post, we investigate whether default behavior has varied across cohorts of borrowers as the labor market evolved over time. Specifically, does the ability of student loan holders to repay their loans vary with the state of the labor market? Does the type of education these students received make any difference to this relationship?
Who Is More Likely to Default on Student Loans?
This post seeks to understand how educational characteristics (school type and selectivity, graduation status, major) and family background relate to the incidence of student loan default. Student indebtedness has grown substantially, increasing by 170 percent between 2006 and 2016. In addition, the fraction of students who default on those loans has grown considerably. Of students who left college in 2010 and 2011, 28 percent defaulted on their student loans within five years, compared with 19 percent of those who left school in 2005 and 2006. Since defaulting on student loans can have serious consequences for credit scores and, by extension, the ability to purchase a home and take out other loans, it’s critical to understand how college and family characteristics correspond to default rates.
Who Falters at Student Loan Payback Time?
This is the final post in a four-part series examining the evolution of enrollment, student loans, graduation and default in the higher education market over the course of the past fifteen years.