Student loan freeze is coming to an end, with consequences for the economy

Student loan freeze is coming to an end, with consequences for the economy

A bedrock component of pandemic-era relief for households is coming to an end: The debt-limit deal struck by the White House and congressional Republicans requires that a moratorium on student loan payments be lifted no later than Aug. 30.

By then, after remaining in place for more than three years, the moratorium on student loans would be worth about $185 billion more than would otherwise have been paid, according to Goldman Sachs calculations. The impact on the lives of borrowers has been profound. More subtle is how the stagnation affected the wider economy.

Emerging research finds that in addition to freeing up cash, the repayment pause coincides with a marked improvement in borrowers’ credit scores, most likely due to the transition of cash from other pandemic relief programs and the reduction of student loan debt from credit reports. caused by removal. It allows people to take out more debt using credit cards to buy cars, homes and daily necessities – raising concerns that student debtors will be hit with yet another monthly bill when their budget is already maxed out Will happen.

“It’s going to quickly reverse all the progress that was made during the repayment moratorium,” said Laura Beamer, who researches higher education finance at the Jain Family Institute, “especially for those who took out mortgage or auto loans.” The new loan was taken out in debt, where they had financial room because they weren’t paying their student loans.

The moratorium on payments, which covers all borrowers with federally owned loans beginning in March 2020 under the CARES Act, is separate from the Biden administration’s proposal to forgive up to $20,000 in student loans. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the challenge to the scheme, which is subject to certain income limits, by the end of the month.

The moratorium began as a way to relieve financial pressure on families when unemployment rose. The forbearance extended to home, auto and consumer loans, to varying degrees, with some private lenders participating voluntarily.

By May 2021, according to a Paper from the Brookings Institution, 72 million borrowers had deferred $86.4 billion in loan payments, primarily on mortgages. Stagnation, whose users generally had more financial distress than others, significantly reduced delinquencies and defaults of the kind that wreaked havoc during the recession a decade ago.

But while borrowers began making payments again on most other loans, for about 42.3 million people student loan gap took effect automatically For all those with federally owned loans, and barred from accruing all interest – continued. The Biden administration issued nine extensions as it weighed options for permanent amnesty, even as aid programs such as expanded unemployment insurance, beefed-up child tax credits and additional nutrition assistance expire.

Crores of borrowers who according to the Federal ReservePaid an average of $200 to $299 per month in 2019, will soon face reinstatement a bill that is often one of the largest line items in their household budget.

Jessica Musselwhite took out a loan of approximately $65,000 to finance a master’s degree in arts administration and nonprofit management, which she completed in 2006. When he got a job related to his field, it paid $26,500 a year. Her $650 monthly student loan installments consumed half of her take-home pay.

She enrolled in an income-driven repayment program that made the payments more manageable. But even as interest mounted, she struggled to make progress on principal. By the time the pandemic began, even with a steady job at the University of Chicago when she graduated, along with the credit card debt she had accumulated to buy groceries and other basics .

The absence of those payments allows for a whole new set of options. It helped Ms Musselwhite and her partner buy a smaller house on the south side, and they got to work on improvements such as better air conditioning. But this increased his own expenses – and even more debt.

Ms Musselwhite said, “The thing about having a lot of student loans, and working in a job that pays less, and then being a person who is getting older, is that you want those things.” that your neighbors and co-workers have.” 45. “I know financially it hasn’t always been the best decision.”

Now the repayment interval is coming to an end. Ms Musselwhite doesn’t know how much her monthly payment will be, but she is thinking about where she might need to cut back – and her partner’s student loan payments will also come due.

As student loan loads have risen and incomes have stagnated in recent decades, Ms Musselwhite’s experience of seeing her balance rise rather than sink has become common – 52.1 per cent of borrowers were in that position in 2020, a According Analysis By Ms. Beamer, a higher education researcher, and her co-authors at the Jain Family Institute, largely because interest has accumulated while debtors can only make minimum payments, or even less.

The share of borrowers with higher balances than when they began was steadily rising until the pandemic and was even higher in census tracts where blacks are the majority. Then it began to shrink, as those who continued with loan payments were able to make progress while interest rates were set at zero.

Some other consequences of this extended breathing have become apparent.

It disproportionately helped families with children, According to economists at the Federal Reserve, A larger proportion of black households with children were eligible than white and Hispanic households, although their pre-pandemic monthly payments were smaller. (This reflects Black households’ lower incomes, not debt balances, which were higher; 53 percent of Black households were also not making payments before the pandemic.)

What did borrowers do with the extra space in their budget? Economist at the University of Chicago found That instead of paying off other loans, those eligible for the moratorium increased their leverage by an average of 3 percent, or $1,200, compared to borrowers who were not eligible. Extra income could be channeled into higher spending by making minimum payments on lines of credit, which many found attractive, especially before the pandemic when interest rates were low.

Put another way, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found Half of all borrowers whose student loan payments are scheduled to resume have other loans at least 10 percent higher than before the pandemic.

The impact may be most problematic for borrowers who were already delinquent on student loans before the pandemic. That population took on 12.3 percent more credit card debt and 4.6 percent more auto debt than distressed borrowers who were not eligible for the moratorium, according to one Paper by finance professors at Yale University and Georgia Tech,

In recent months, the paper found, those borrowers have begun to become delinquent on their loans at higher rates — raising concerns that the resumption of student loan payments could drive more of them into default.

David Flores said, “One of the things we’re preparing for is, once those student loan payments are going to be paid off, people have to choose between what I have to pay and what I don’t have to pay.” Gotta do it.” Director of Client Services with GreenPath Financial Wellness, a non-profit consulting service. “And often, the credit cards are the ones that don’t get paid.”

For now, Mr. Flores urges customers to enroll in income-driven repayment plans if they can. Biden administration has proposed rule Which would make such schemes more liberal.

In addition, the administration’s proposal for loan forgiveness, if upheld by the Supreme Court, would result in a 0.2 percentage point deficit for personal spending growth in 2023, according to Goldman Sachs researchers.

Whether or not loan forgiveness wins in court, the transition to loan repayment can be rocky. Many large student loan servicers have terminated their contracts with the Department of Education and transferred its portfolios to others, and the department is running short of money For student loan processing.

Some experts believe the extended hiatus was not necessarily a good thing, especially since it was costing the federal government about $5 billion per month. Some Estimate,

“I think it made sense to do so. The real question is at what point should it have been turned back?” Adam Looney, a professor at the University of Utah, said testified before Congress student loan policy in march

Ideally, the administration should have decided on reforms and ended the payment freeze much earlier in a coordinated manner, Dr. Looney said.

Regardless, the end of the pause is causing spending constraints for millions of households. For Dan and Beth McConnell of Houston, who have $143,000 left in loans to pay for their two daughters’ undergraduate education, the implications are stark.

The pause in his monthly payment was particularly helpful when Mr McConnell, 61, is laid off as a marine geologist at the end of 2021. He is doing some consultancy work but doubts that he will replace his former income. That may mean forgoing long-term care insurance, or digging into retirement accounts when the $1,700 monthly payments start in the fall.

“It’s the brick through the window that’s sabotaging retirement plans,” Mr McConnell said.

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