Wall Street Has Been Gambling With Student Loan Debt For Decades

Lambert here: “Debts that can’t be paid, won’t be paid” (Michael Hudson). And vice versa?

By Eli J. Campbell, a writer, artist, and activist who has been advocating for a student debt strike since 2016. Originally published at Open Democracy.

Student loan debt burdens 44 million people in the United States. However for CEOs of student loan companies, or investors on Wall Street, student debt is a lucrative commodity to be bought and sold for profit.

Corporations such as Navient, Nelnet, and PHEAA service outstanding student debt on behalf of the Department of Education. These companies also issue Student Loan Asset-Backed Securities (SLABS) in collaboration with major financial institutions like Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, and Goldman Sachs. For these firms and their creditors, debt isn’t just an asset, it’s their bottom line.

Investors holding SLABS are entitled to coupon payments at regular intervals until the security reaches final maturity, or they can trade the assets in speculative secondary markets. There is even a forum where SLABS investors can anonymously discuss their assets and transactions, free from unwanted public scrutiny.

Yet the financialization of student debt is almost never reported on in the media. There is little public awareness that when student borrowers sign their Master Promissory Notes (affirming that they will repay their loans and “reasonable collection costs”), their debts may be securitized and sold to investors.

The History of SLABS

SLABS resulted from specific federal policy decisions. On November 27, 1992, the Securities and Exchange Commission adopted Rule 3(a)(7) of the Investment Company Act of 1940, which allows companies who issue asset backed securities to be exempt from the legal definition of an “investment company.” This exemption permits companies to avoid asset registration fees and regulatory oversight – making it profitable for student loan companies (among others) to issue securities, which effectively created the market for SLABS. In total, $600 billion worth of SLABS have been issued, with $170 billion worth still outstanding.

There are two main types of SLABS: those backed by loans made by private lenders, and those backed by loans made through the Federal Family Education Loan program (FFEL). The majority of all student debt today is the $1.1 trillion loaned by the federal government through the Direct Lending program. While these loans cannot be securitized directly, they can be if borrowers consolidate or refinance their loans through a private lender.

Private student loan debt accounts for roughly $120 billion of the $1.6 trillion total outstanding debt. Companies such as SoFi refinance student loans, and have issued $18 billion in SLABS since their founding in 2011. These loans are highly favorable to lenders – as borrowers who default on private loans face greater consequences than those who default on federal loans.

FFEL loans are made by private lenders that are guaranteed by the federal government if borrowers default, which incentivizes riskier lending. Although Congress ended the program in 2010, there are still roughly $280 billion of FFEL loans outstanding, and the largest firms such as Navient and Nelnet retain FFEL loans in their portfolios and have continued to issue FFEL-backed SLABS.

The Next Bubble?

Over the past few decades, student loan companies and Wall Street have amassed record profits. Meanwhile, $1.6 trillion of student debt is crushing generations of Americans by delaying home ownership, causing generational wealth to decrease, and contributing to widespread depression and even suicide. Since the ironically-named Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, student debt is virtually impossible to discharge in bankruptcy.

The highest level of SLABS issuance occurred between 2005 and 2007 – while falling sharply during the 2008 financial crisis. Could a future recession lead to a similar breakdown in the SLABS market?

Parallels to the reckless and illegal actions of Wall Street with Mortgage-Backed-Securities (MBS) that led to the global financial crisis a decade ago may trigger similar alarm bells. Nonetheless, there are important differences between SLABS and MBS.

First and foremost, student loans cannot be collateralized. With MBS, the loans were collateralized by the house or property being purchased, but the “equity” in student loans is the borrower’s future expected earnings, which are difficult to quantify. Secondly, the overall market for SLABS is a fraction the size of the MBS market before the financial crisis. Finally, because of federal guarantees for FFEL loans and the 2005 bankruptcy laws, it is uncommon that the student loan companies will lose the value of their underlying investment, even when trends are showing that students are increasingly unable to pay their loans.

While SLABS may not pose the same level of systemic threat to the global financial system that MBS posed, there are legitimate concerns that this market poses serious systemic risks.

Navient is the largest student loan servicing company and the largest issuer of SLABS. In filings with the SEC, Navient acknowledges the following risk factors: “An economic downturn may cause the market for auction rate notes to cease to existHolders of auction rate securities may be unable to sell their securities and may experience a potentially significant loss of market value.

Due to the “securitization food chain”, if Navient or other SLABS issuers and holders experience a significant loss of revenue, they could default on their obligations – triggering negative consequences for Wall Street firms that market these securities to investors and supply credit to the greater public.

There are a few different ways this could happen. SLABS are created in a way that minimizes risk by spreading it around, but if significant numbers of student debtors default on their loans, the securities could lose their value if rating agencies downgrade them. Another possibility is that federal bankruptcy reform could favor student borrowers – which would certainly affect the market for SLABS.

Some Democratic presidential candidates have proposed significant policies to cancel student debt – Bernie Sanders’ plan would cancel all $1.6 trillion of outstanding student debt, while Elizabeth Warren’s plan would cancel up to $50,000 of student debt for 42 million Americans. These policies would make it less likely that the SLABS that have been issued would ever fully pay out, especially given that many of them will not reach their final maturity for decades.

Debt Strikes

The student debt crisis is symptomatic of an unsustainable capitalist system. In the past several decades, the securitization of debt has become central to economic growth, but at what cost? As economist Michael Hudson has argued, “debts that can’t be paid, won’t be paid”, and the insistence of creditors to collect on those debts can trigger social unrest.

As the rational discontent of younger generations continues to grow, catalyzed by a lower quality of life than older generations, the accelerating climate crisis, and insurmountable student debt – activists may choose to utilize “the power of economic withdrawal.”

Rather than endure the Sisyphean burden of unpayable debt, young people could exploit the vulnerabilities of the SLABS market via debt strikes or boycotts, as advocated during the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. Fear about the consequences of default may keep American student debtors from organizing such a strike, but greater public awareness about SLABS and the acceleration of present crises may incite more radical action.

“For thousands of years, the struggle between rich and poor has largely taken the form of conflicts between creditors and debtors”, writes David Graeber in his comprehensive 2011 book Debt: The First 5000 Years. “By the same token, for the last five thousand years, with remarkable regularity, popular insurrections have begun the same way: with the ritual destruction of the debt records-tablets.”

Activists concerned about student debt should ask themselves: what would such a symbolic protest look like in the United States today, and could it become popular enough to pose a significant threat to the status quo?

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

46 comments

  1. notabanktoadie

    and the insistence of creditors to collect on those debts can trigger social unrest. Eli J. Campbell

    Bank deposits are IOUs for fiat. However, except for mere physical fiat, i.e. coins and paper bills, the non-bank private sector* may not even USE fiat. So bank liabilities toward the non-bank private sector are largely a sham. And that’s true before we even consider that banks are backstopped by the Central Bank as lender/asset buyer of last resort.

    So we have unequal protection under the law here – the non-bank private sector’s liabilities toward the banking sector are entirety real while the banking sector’s liabilities toward the non-bank private sector are almost, if not entirely, a sham.

    *e.g. individuals, businesses.

    Reply
    1. Susan the Other

      Unsustainable capitalism once again. It’s hard to imagine now how anyone thought the system would hold up and that everyone would go on and on as usual. The banks are just the middlemen once again, facilitating the only transactions they know how to do. The private owners of this passive income are, along with the students who can not pay, are the ones who need help. Maybe Liz’s 50K limit will work, because the government can just write off the rest, no? If the loss of an honest investment in student loans is too much to be written off by private buyers, the government can help them with tax credits and all that other sleight of hand stuff. In addition to canceling student loan debt, it would be fair and even necessary imo to compensate those students for having to spend the most productive years of their lives in their parents’ basements, without a job or a dime to their name. That could amount to a substantial rebate – the loss of your youth, opportunity, self-esteem and on and on. The problem isn’t the system – it is not recognizing that the system could no long carry on. It is over. It was over 20 years ago. Dragging feet and denial are the name of the game when it comes to fixing things. And of course blame.

      Reply
      1. notabanktoadie

        The private owners of this passive income are, along with the students who can not pay, are the ones who need help. Susan the Other

        De-privileging the banks would be deflationary by itself and so would allow a large and equal initial Citizen’s Dividend with little price inflation risk.

        Reply
  2. cnchal

    To all the kiddies out there, or the rare ones that actually read NC, “debt strikes” doesn’t mean take on massive debt to learn to code (who are you going to code for? A whip cracker like Bezos?) and then not pay, it means not taking on non dischargable in bankruptcy debt and hanging a millstone around your neck for life, in the first place.

    Wake the hell up. The system is rigged against you.

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchiuckles

      I may be wrong, but I think that “debt strikes” narrowly and literally means ” don’t pay it back”. And that can only work if so many millions of people do it at the very same time that the SystemLords can’t hire enough armed enforcers to stop the Debt Strike Rebellion.

      Don’t take on debt for college to begin with is a better approach, but there must be a better word for it than
      debt strike. Something to suggest the concept of borrower boycott. or something.

      Reply
    2. Nakatomi Plaza

      Most students understand this. But do you want to tell an eighteen-year old to skip college to avoid debt? It’s probably a terrible idea if you make this choice in isolation; you need a couple hundred thousand friends to make the same commitment if you want to force the system to change.

      It’s a cruel system that punishes young people for trying to do the right thing and better themselves.

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Perhaps the wannabe student need not skip college altogether. Perhaps the wannabe student can begin by going to a community college or training-institute in something boring and unglamorous but modestly remunerative and stability-starting.

        For example, community colleges often have 1-2 year programs in things like Pharmacy Technology and the like. I went through such a program at Washtenaw Community College for affordable-at-the-time money and came out to get a job at a major hospital as a Pharmacy Technician. I started permanent part time and slowly ground my way up to full time at a modest working class wage with middle class benefits. The skill is geographically transferable and the still-young pharmacy technician may well be able to get and move to a job in the same trade in the city or region where resides the Shining University on a Hill to which the wannabe student would like to go.

        If the student can gain admission, the student can then take one class per semester without having to borrow any credit. After many years at that slower grindinger pace, the student will come out with a degree ( hopefully in making money) and have zero debt to show for it.

        That is what some young people I know of are doing. A slow steady grind towards college and then through college while gathering zero debt along the way. They are trading time for freedom.

        And of course those young people who are doing this do not have to tell their “dream schools” that they are doing this. They can apply to one or two “dream schools” in pretended good-faith, and when the acceptances and offers come back, they can look at the offers and politely decline every offer which contains or assumes any student debt whatsoever. If enough hundreds of thousands of seemingly-sincere college applicants were to do that, colleges and universities might get the message.

        Reply
  3. Fraibert

    My impression is the author of the original piece wanted to make the securitization sound like it could lead to another financial crisis but then provided data and facts suggesting otherwise. For example, since a significant portion of securitizated loans are from the FFEL program and therefore federally backstopped, those loans sound pretty safe to me from an investor point of view and I also suspect that this backstop cannot legally be removed without constituting an unconstitutional taking of private property in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

    I also find that “activist” focus on the financial institutions may be missing an important part of the bigger picture–why is higher education so expensive? We allow schools to have tax exemptions on the notion that they provide a public good but then see them acting like normal for profit businesses, hovering up subsidies in the form of nearly unlimited federal education loans for a product that seems to be decreasing in quality. No one compelled schools to increase prices at a rate significantly higher than inflation or use as many adjuncts as possible…

    Reply
    1. Fraibert

      Maybe it’s inevitable that conventional political liberals will have a blind spot in regards to education pricing–higher education is a reliable political bloc in their favor, after all.

      But I find it curious that proposals have gone to regulate hospital budgets (Rep. Jayapal’s Medicare bill) while no one of political importance that I have seen seems to think that allowing schools to have ridiculous prices is a problem.

      Reply
      1. Nakatomi Plaza

        You’re absolutely right. I think it’s the phenomenon of the 10%, some of whom are high-level college administrators and long-time professors whose self-worth is pinned to the fantasy that education is a magical cure for injustice and any inclination to vote GOP. It’s inconceivable to them that they’ve become the bad guys in all this.

        Make student debt dischargeable like other types of debt and watch the system collapse.

        Reply
    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Perhaps the World Financial System is stretched so drumhead-tight . . . like a multi-dimensional spider-webby cat’s cradle with a turnbuckle on every strand tightened all the way down . . . that even a little thing like a bunch of SLABs spontaneously combusting like a Tesla ilithium ion battery pack . . . might be enough to cause main cables to snap and whip through the system, slashing every turnbuckle-tightened spiderweb strand they meet on the way, sending further spasms of catastrophic tension-release chattering throughout the system.

      Reply
  4. lyman alpha blob

    While the SLAB market may not pose a systemic risk in the same way the MBS did due to it being a much smaller market, it seems to me to be nothing more than another legalized scam. Buying debt on the secondary market so you can shake down students who can’t legally declare bankruptcy for loans that are guaranteed in the first place is nice work if you can get it.

    The real risk here is in creating a society where the shysters are encouraged and rewarded. For better or worse, people used to consider a good work ethic to be a virtue. That societal norm is going right down the drain and as we’ve been reading about the series on the fall of the Roman republic, that hasn’t ended well at all in the past.

    Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        And upon the middles and poors of older generations, too. How many parents out there have co-signed for loans for their children to pay for college?

        How many 401K holders have some of their “retirement money” in these SLAB vehicles , awaiting a visit from the Grim Haircutter?

        Reply
  5. inode_buddha

    This is one area where both conservatives and progressives can agree, but they have completely opposite solutions.

    The conservatives argue that the government shouldn’t be backing any kind of debt because that will just automatically lead to inflation, due to bureaucracy (patronage jobs, etc)

    Progressives argue that there should be price controls. Good luck getting that passed tho. In my experience, any kind of cost controls imposed from above is going to be felt by, and passed on to, those on the bottom.

    Reply
    1. Fraibert

      I think if you are going to have effectively unlimited federal student loans made available (and I’m not saying this is the right way to fund higher education) a default by a student should be substantially taxed back to the school. Real world results have shown that higher education is operating like a business so schools should be incentivized to do what they can to ensure its students are not financially destroyed by attendance.

      Reply
    2. Joe Well

      The solution the progressives are offering is free public college. Unless you have stretched progressive to mean any liberal or centrist.

      Reply
      1. Fraibert

        To be fair, free public college probably will include some kind of hard or soft price control. Price inflation in higher education has, until recently, been entirely out of control and schools are doing their best to avoid improved price discovery by giving discounts (“scholarships”) while increasing the headline prices.

        Reply
        1. Joe Well

          This is why the jobs guarantee and $15/hour minimum wage have to accompany the grand social-democratic reforms like Free College, Green New Deal, and Medicare for All. Entire layers of middle management and clerical workers representing millions of jobs will be eliminated when we cut these industries back down to size.

          Reply
        2. False Solace

          What part of “Free” don’t you understand?

          Public universities, colleges, and tech schools will be publicly funded. if they want to blow their budget on 3 layers of administrators they can justify themselves to taxpayers. A price control is something else.

          Reply
  6. Denis Drew

    Here’s how to implement Bernie’s plan for the federal government to wipe out all student debt. Really, how to transition to a European like college loan system: 25 years to pay off — income based — then, forgive for any amount left. This is the kind of system we should have had all along.

    Simple: the fed gov offers to pay off any amount you owe — in exchange you agree to the kind of loan setup above. For people just out of school the exchange would be simple — straight forward trade of debt. How to handle people, say, twelve years out of school, who have of have not kept up their original payments, it will take a national conversation to work that out.

    This loan takeover scheme avoids any problem with graduates who have kept up their payments objecting to loan wipe out for graduates who have not.

    Reply
    1. neplusultra

      How is that any different than the current Income based repayment plans which wipe out balances after 20 years? besides being a worse plan

      Maybe do a little research before posting a comment next time

      Reply
      1. Denis Drew

        As far as I know the current income based plan is a giant bust — very difficult to apply for — many find out years later that one thing wrong with their app and the whole thing is canceled. Nightmare. Sorry; I forget the details.

        Reply
      2. Denis Drew

        CUT-AND-PASTE from Angry Bear
        https://angrybearblog.com/2019/10/republican-renegade-emulates-warrens-student-loan-cancellation-but-its-still-problematic.html

        Also, any cancellation program would be administered by the Department of Education, which has a well-documented history of bungling such programs, as Johnson rightly points out. For example, of the roughly 40,000 people who thought they were getting cancellation this year through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, fewer than 100 (less than 1%) actually will. Similarly, a whopping 57% of people in the Income Based Repayment Program (IBR) were disqualified for administrative reasons. So the borrowers are cruelly left owing far more than had they never tried!
        https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/30/this-man-joins-a-small-crowd-of-public-servants-to-get-their-student-loans-forgiven.html
        [broken link — but the info was there — https://www.aacrao.org/advocacy/2015/04/02/hundreds-of-thousands-of-borrowers-fall-out-of-income-based-repayment-plans%22%22%5D

        Reply
    2. Fraibert

      However, while I agree that’s the general outline of a transition plan, it does not address the person who, with strenuous effort, paid off all their loans on time in the time before the program goes into effect. I’m not sure what you do there.

      Reply
      1. Fraibert

        I was thinking more about this question of transition.

        For graduates who directly borrowed from the federal government and fully paid off their loans, the interest and loan origination fee components, adjusted for inflation, should be returned as a lump, untaxable sum. This refund is a return of funds that the federal government should not have earned and which therefore rightfully belong to the graduate-borrower.

        If most paid in full student loans were federal direct loans, then we could stop the discussion here but I know that a substantial portion are not.

        The other types of loans present more difficulty in handling. For FFEL federal loan and private borrowers who paid off their loans, the loan interest and origination fees are earned by a private lender and not by the federal government. This means that treating these loans like federal direct loans (as discussed above) results in society as a whole paying what is in effect restitution for profits earned by a select group. This does not seem appropriate as a matter of policy.

        However, there are all sorts of practical and legal issues (and rightfully so in the latter case) if the government were to attempt to recoup the interest and fees from the private lenders, who were acting not only within the law but in accordance with the rules established by the government.

        Reply
    3. False Solace

      I have a better plan. Public college is free.

      Univeral. Material. Concrete. Benefits.

      Of course, I believe education is a pure good. If you don’t believe that, you probably want to make getting educated as difficult and complicated and painful as possible (maybe even guaranteeing yourself a cushy white collar job in the process). 25 year repayment and all the paperwork that involves? No. Free.

      Reply
  7. Alan Collinge

    Glad to see this piece. The SLAB community has been using its invisible hand to keep these loans free from constitutional bankruptcy protections for many years. Shameful. 3 points:

    1. Many years of White House Budget data shows that the government is actually profiting on defaulted loans. This is a defining hallmark of a predatory lending system!

    2. There are bills in the House and Senate that would return constitutional bankruptcy protections to student loans. S. 1414, and HR. 2648. These bills are well positioned, but must be pushed.

    Also, what does a protest look like? Glad you asked! Here are a couple of photos of our protests at Trump Tower and the Department of Education last years:

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10156560965936255&set=g.7704336701&type=1&ifg=1

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10156465051166255&set=g.7704336701&type=1&ifg=1

    See Studentloanjustice.Org, and Facebook.com/groups/sljgroup to get involved.

    Reply
  8. Iapetus

    Profiting from debts that are so exploitative that many can never be paid off is not a good way to make money. More on this from Bloomberg:

    “though they’re meeting their $1,300 in required monthly payments, their balance has remained roughly the same over the last year because Vicky’s outlay doesn’t cover all of the interest on her loans. For all their education and career success, the Wilsons can’t envision repaying their school debts—ever. And forget about buying a home or opening a college fund for their 3-year-old son. “We don’t even think about it,” Jon says”

    and

    “few know that this generation of borrowers is chipping away at their debt so slowly that some may not escape it until they’re dead. That’s the grim assessment of a new Bloomberg Businessweek analysis, which found that U.S. student loan borrowers as a group are paying down about 1% of their federal debt every year. It’s as if a former student were reducing the balance of a typical $30,000 college loan by only $300 annually. At that rate, it’s almost unthinkable how long it would take to repay the government: a century.”

    Reply
    1. Fraibert

      It is worth noting that federal student loans have a maximum payment term of 25 years. After that point, the remainder of the balance, including accrued interest, is forgiven.

      However, under the federal tax code, forgiven of indebtedness generally is treated as income. (Technically speaking, forgiveness of indebtedness is a class of “imputed income.”) In turn, forgiveness of indebtedness may not be treated income if the taxpayer is insolvent at the time.

      It is still a broken and unethical system but the debt isn’t inherently a permanent burden.

      Reply
      1. False Solace

        Just Not True. You have to be enrolled in one specific Income Based Repayment plan for your loan to be forgiven after 25 years. And you have to make 25 years of on-time payments, so better hope you’re never laid off, oh and also, not all loans are eligible. And yes, the amount forgiven counts as taxable income. Oh, and, by the way, there are multiple versions of these repayment plans and they all have slightly different rules and requirements — good luck navigating all the options since your servicer will steer you toward whatever profits themselves most. And when you finally reach the end of your payment term, better hope the current SecEd isn’t a crazy billionaire because guess what, that loan won’t actually get forgiven. God help people who ever accumulate penalties or fees.

        This is the system we ask 18 year olds to navigate.

        Reply
        1. False Solace

          For people who don’t believe me, a sample of loan forgiveness programs. Note the page even describes them as “secret”. The 25 year forgiveness IBR is included in the list. Everything about this speaks of neoliberal infestation.

          Reply
  9. Sancho Panza

    In my state (Georgia) savvy high school students are arb’ing college tuition costs thru dual enrollment programs – gaining high school and college credits simultaneously through taxpayer funded programs…basically free college credits…and keeping their personal balance sheets clean.

    Reply
    1. KLG

      Which is also my home state and where students who maintain a GPA of 3.0 keep their HOPE Scholarship, which has lessened in value since its beginning but still pays nearly 100% of in-state tuition at public institutions. My impression is that then-Governor Zell Miller did this correctly. Lottery revenues (sad story) provide these scholarships to the students, not the schools, so there is no outright zero-sum game in which the university system can be (easily) shortchanged by the state government. But that is another story for another time. In any case, diddling too much with the HOPE Scholarship after 25 years would cause an unprecedented sh*tstorm in what is now the 9th-largest, tending slightly purple, state, so it is safe. For now.

      Reply
  10. Stratos

    “…the ironically-named Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005…”

    Orwellian names for draconian bills are commonplace bits of propaganda since the the 1980s and the rise of Reaganism.

    Really, can you imagine the Repubs and corp Dems glugging down truth serum and naming the bill the “Student Debt Peonage Act of 2005”? Or maybe the “Screw Future Generations of Americans Act of 2005?

    Reply
  11. Shiloh1

    Another student loan article and another example where at no point is there ever an explanation given on how the debt problem came into play, specifically tuition rising about 2x CPI (or any other non-financialized basis) over the past 30 years.

    Credit spends the same way as cash. Supply and demand, where the market includes buyer-students armed with debt loans (Orwell-speak as “financial aid”) over their heads. Colleges charge what the market will bear; they also have absolutely no skin in the game for bad financial or academic outcomes.

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Such an explanation should also explain when and where and why the tuition rose. Whatever part of that tuition rise was the colleges and Universities trying to make up for the state taxpayer subsidies they no longer received during the era of tax revolt . . . should be made very plain to the explanation-reader.

      Reply
  12. inode_buddha

    My oldest loans are 23 years. Been in forbearance once, slow pay/no pay a couple times. IBR. Navient. I finally concluded I’ll have to wait another decade or two for my inheritance to pay them off. Because the job market sure didn’t — hell, they didn’t even come up with a living. And I work in a technical field.

    Reply
  13. Bill Carson

    This is, in effect, another huge subsidy provided to American corporations—-the availability of trained and educated professional laborers without cost or risk!

    Back in the 1950’s and 60’s, corporations paid taxes which in part funded public colleges and universities, which in turn were the sources for engineers, accountants, doctors, bankers, technologists, etc. etc. Now corporations are getting a free ride—taxes are lower, taxes only fund a small percentage of public higher education, and the workers themselves are taking the risk, paying for the educations, credentials and certificates themselves that the corporations need to make money. What a fabulous country for corporations!

    Reply
  14. eg

    Can somebody please explain to me how student debt in the USA comes to be exempt from the usual bankruptcy procedures?

    This indentureship is ruinous.

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Senator Biden wrote the bill for this ( with help from his banker owners and patrons) and guided it through Congress to passage. Then some President or other signed it. But it really truly is Big Joe’s bill.

      Maybe Big Joe’s millions of social class victims will force him to own it in public with the right kinds of demonstrations and social media image-arson campaigns and image-acid-attacks and so forth.

      Reply
  15. templar55510

    I spent less than10 seconds typing ‘ Navient CEO pay ‘ into Google and getting the result. And here it is ‘ Navient has paid CEO Jack Remondi nearly $23 million in total compensation over the last four years, a period in which Navient’s stock lost over a third of its value ‘ . How’s that for success !

    Reply
  16. Eli Campbell

    Hey all, thanks for all your comments! I wanted to point out one thing. As someone noted, the FFEL loans are 97% gauranteed or something like that. It’s very unlikely that the initial investment in the securities will be lost. However, the value of the securities in the secondary market can absolutely be compromised, as Navient’s risk factors acknowledge. If nobody wants to buy them, there isn’t a damn thing they can do about that. SLABS are just one part of companies like Navient’s bottom line. They service federal loans, issue stock, issue corporate bonds, and even service medical debt. If the market for SLABS collapses, all of these companies will have to make up that revenue somewhere else, and if they can’t, they will default on their obligations and we’ll be the ones laughing for once. I suspect that the SLABS market will probably see devastating losses if Bernie Sanders is elected even before he can cancel student debt. Fingers crossed!

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