I have been reading more and more about the "Boomerang Generation," as the economy makes it tougher and tougher to find a job. This is especially true of young people graduating colleges and universities without any prospects of employment. They end up moving back in with Mom and Dad.
Unfortunately, their student loan debt ends up moving in with them. Young people are spending more and more money on higher education, including post-graduate degrees, and racking up more and more debt before they enter the job market.
How Did We Get Into This Mess?
I have written here before about how student loan debt is extremely difficult to discharge in bankruptcy. The requirements are stringent, although some have succeeded, but all in all it is very discouraging. Originally, student loans that were guaranteed by the government and more than seven years old could be discharged without showing real hardship.
Then in the nineties the seven year minimum was eliminated, and all Guaranteed Student Loans (GSLs) could only be discharged if "real hardship" was shown. Finally, in 2005, the bankruptcy code was changed again to make all educational loans, from any lender, nondischargeable absent said showing.
Is This the Next Big Crisis?
Massachusetts bankruptcy attorney Nicholas Ortiz, on his blog Student Loan Laws, posits in a recent post that "We've witnessed a lot of debt crisis lately: the mortgage meltdown, government bailouts, rising credit card defaults, and skyrocketing medical debt are a few examples. I am convinced that student loans are the next shoe to drop."
Hmmm.... I know, as any lawyer does, that there are very few jobs out there today for the newly minted lawyer. However, that does not stop law schools from continuing to recruit and grind them out. I am also sure that this is true in many career areas.
So What Needs to Be Done?
With all of this happening, I personally think that something has to give. Either banks have to be stricter about lending money for education if the degree (such as the law) is not one reasonably anticipated to result in employment that will generate income sufficient to pay it back, or the student should be able to discharge the debt if the job market does not live up to the hype of the educational institution.
What do you think? Let me know in the Comments to this post or go to my Facebook page and vote in the poll: Should student loans be dischargeable (Yes, no, or only if not backed by the government)?