The destructive effects of high-interest student loans on the lives and families of borrowers are terrible and widespread. Defaulting on the debt is even worse, but increasing numbers of borrowers have no alternative — 38% of borrowers default within the first twenty years of the loan, and that percentage is increasing.
My guess is that soon prospective students will just stop accepting admission offers if the accompanying "aid" packages include large loans. Some will decide not to attend college at all. I suspect that that's what my family and I would have decided if the same situation had existed when I was applying to colleges. We were all strong believers in education and aspirants to the professional classes, but we were also strong believers in staying out of debt.
“Ending the Secrecy of the Student Debt Crisis”
Daniela Senderowicz, YES! Magazine, September 5, 2018
With an average debt of just over $37,000 per borrower for the class of 2016, and given that incomes have been flat since the 1970s, it's not surprising that borrowers are struggling to pay. Student loans have a squeaky-clean reputation, and society tends to view them as a noble symbol of the taxpayers' generosity to the working poor. Fear of facing society's ostracism for failure to pay them back has left borrowers alienated and trapped in a lending system that has engulfed them in debt bondage.
“The Looming Student Loan Default Crisis Is Worse Than We Thought”
Judith Scott-Clayton, The Brookings Institution, January 11, 2018