Trends in Education Borrowing

The Federal Reserve Board of Governor’s Report on the Economic Well-Being of US Households has a wealth of data on student loans, including a breakdown of borrowing by age range, forms of debt, and payment status by school type. Some interesting points:

  • The report shows that borrowing rates– the percent who took out loans for education, whether or not they’ve repaid them– are more than double for 18- to 29-year-olds than for those over age 60. For example, 62% of the younger generation borrowed for their bachelor’s degree, compared with 28% of those over 60.
  • Almost 1/4 of those who borrowed to attend for-profit institutions are behind on their payments, compared with 9% of public college and 6% of private non-profit attendees. The study’s authors note that test scores, which correlate with loan repayment (higher test scores = more likely to be current or paid off), are lower at for-profit institutions, but even when selective schools are removed from the mix the repayment gap persists for for-profit institutions, likely due to lower earnings from the careers to which such degrees provide pathways.
  • While student loans are the primary for all borrowers, with 94% of student borrowers (those borrowing to pay for their own education) and 82% of those borrowing to pay for someone else’s education utilizing student loans, other forms of credit also get high utilization. 1/4 of those paying their own way use credit cards, either in addition to or instead of student loans; among those paying for someone else, credit cards are used by 22% and home equity loans by 14%. While there may have been a case to be made for using a home equity loan (which interest was deductible until the new tax law went into effect in 2018), most borrowers are doing themselves a disservice by using tools other than federal student loans to pay for education.

AOTC And New Tax Law

One of the big changes to the tax bill was making our young adult children less valuable to their parents from a tax perspective. The dependent exemption is gone and the child tax credit for 18- to 23-year-old dependents is only $500. The change does open a door to higher-income families for the American Opportunity Tax Credit, though.  The AOTC phases out at MAGI of $160,000, so it’s not unusual for families to be ineligible but to still find college unaffordable.

Here’s how the AOTC works, from irs.gov: Continue reading AOTC And New Tax Law

A Tale of Two Acceptances

(Or: Why You Should Talk to Your Kids About Money Before Applying)

My son applied to two schools: In-State-U and an Out-Of-State-U-With-A-Scholarship. I’m fairly certain that a big reason for applying to OOSU was that his sister is applying to a number of schools and he felt like maybe he’d be doing something wrong if he didn’t. He wants to attend a big school; he loves sports and wants a D-1 sports program to be part of his college experience. His GPA isn’t fabulous but he did really well on the ACT, so he did some research and discovered that OOSU has a big scholarship for out of state students that’s based solely on test scores. Continue reading A Tale of Two Acceptances

Does it Matter Where You Go to College?

In 2002, a paper in the Quarterly Journal of Economics by economists Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger showed that for most students, the incremental value of attending an elite college was virtually nil. Instead, the paper showed that similar students– especially those with similar test scores– fared similarly in life regardless of where they attended college. Happy news for the majority of us who did not and will not attend elite schools.

A new paper shows a slight twist to this story: while individual characteristics may be more determinate for many students, particularly upper middle class white males, for others, especially women, minorities and students whose parents did not attend college, school choice can make a big difference. Here is a great article summarizing the findings.

Where do Massive Student Loan Balances Come From?

Education is a good investment, and assuming some debt to earn a bachelor’s or advanced degree tends to pay off for most. For example, a student who took out the maximum direct student loan each year for four years would pay a little over $300 per month for 10 years to fully repay their loans. The average salary for a recent college graduate is over $51,000, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows median weekly earnings for bachelor’s degree holders being $461 higher than the median for those with Continue reading Where do Massive Student Loan Balances Come From?

College Prep by Grade

I gave a financial aid talk to college and career center volunteers at our high school recently. One question stood out: “This is a lot of information to absorb at once. Can you break it down into some specific suggestions by grade?” Two ideas are important here: College planning is a process that should start well before senior year, and there are things that can be done at any point to make things go more smoothly when the time comes to start applying. So here goes. Continue reading College Prep by Grade

Estimating Post-Graduation Loan Burden

For many teenagers, it’s difficult to understand the true burden of student loans. For someone whose primary source of income has been mowing lawns, the average college graduate starting salary of over $51,000 often seems a little bit like winning the lottery. Unfortunately, it also leaves many feeling like student debt will be no problem. Variations on the theme of, if I’m making $50,000 a year, it won’t take any time to pay off $50,000 in student loans, abound. However, the facts are somewhat different: all-in, Continue reading Estimating Post-Graduation Loan Burden

Why File the FAFSA?

Every year, a large percentage of the eligible population fails to file a FAFSA: the Department of Education estimates 40% of high school seniors do not file it and 25% of college students do not renew their FAFSA. And yet, there are plenty of compelling reasons to do so. The obvious one is access to financial aid. Here are some other reasons: Continue reading Why File the FAFSA?