Eleven percent of student loans were seriously delinquent — at least 90 days past due — in the third quarter of 2012, compared with 6 percent in the first quarter of 2003, according to the report by the U.S. Education Department. Almost 30 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds aren’t employed or in school, the study found.
Even worse, student loan debt is actually increasing after students leave college. Student debt now averages $26,600 per student, which is more than half the average salary of a college grad. And the overall landscape for college grads is darkening. Nearly half of college grads are underemployed—attempting to pay off their vast loans in an unfavorable job market—working for hourly wages in jobs that don’t require a college degree. And 37,000 advanced degree holders are doing the same.As they work in low paying jobs, chained to debt they can’t shed, young people are delaying getting married, buying homes, and generally putting down roots. Perhaps rather than fuss over student loan interest rates, Congress and President Obama could use their time to create policy that drives down tuition costs before this bubble gets any bigger.[Ball and chain image courtesy of Shutterstock]