7 grim facts about student loans that will make you feel less alone

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Student loan debt is one of the big factors standing in the way of millennials making the progress their parents’ generation had. Many have said they have put off major life events like getting married, starting a family, or buying a house because of their debt.

While new studies from JP Morgan Chase and Student Loan Hero take different approaches to gathering and analysing data, the two sets of data draw very similar conclusions. Both sets of data show just how dire the student loan problem has become in the US.

The JP Morgan Chase study looked at 39 million accounts which showed electronic transfers for student loan payments between October 2012 and July 2018. This study was able to include families who may be paying on behalf of students, as well as show how liquid assets, spending, and other habits changed.

The Student Loan Hero survey looked at 533 responses from those who had graduated within the past five years.

If you’re struggling with student loan debt, these studies’ findings make it clear: You’re not alone.

1. The surveys agree: About a quarter of borrowers pay over $US300 each month

Student Loan Hero found that about 21% of respondents paid over $US300 per month for their loans, while Chase found 25% of families spent more than $US329 per month on student loans.

2. A full 78% of graduates said their student loan balances hindered their lives

In Student Loan Hero’s recent study, 78% said they felt hindered by their monthly payments. About 30% said they’d given up going out with friends or saving for retirement to make payments, while 44% said they’d given up travelling.

3. One in four families spends 11% or more of their take-home pay on loan payments


The Chase study also concluded that one in four families is spending 11% of their income or more on loan payments.

Income-driven repayment plans are available and are meant to cap student loan payments at 10% of your discretionary income, calculated as 1.5 times the poverty guideline for your family size.

But, as so many people are spending more than 10% of their total take-home income on loans, it seems that these repayment arrangements aren’t benefiting as many families as they should.

4. Families are spending more on loans than basic necessities

The JP Morgan Chase study also finds that when families are paying student loans, they’re spending more on those loans than they are on basic necessities.

Gas and out-of-pocket healthcare costs are often less each month than the median monthly student loan payment. Families spend $US148 on fuel, while spending $US179 per month on student loans. And, the 2.9% of income spent on student loans is greater than the 1.7% of take-home income spent on out-of-pocket healthcare costs.

5. About half (46%) of recent graduates say that their student loan balances are still greater than their annual salary

According to the Student Loan Hero survey, 55% of borrowers said that their student loan balances were higher than the salaries of their first jobs out of school. And, 46% still earn annual salaries that are less than their student loan balance.

6. Over a third of borrowers aren’t even working in the field they studied

Julio Cortez/AP

Thirty-five per cent are not doing what they planned to, even though they’re still paying for those degrees. This group is also more likely to say that they wish they’d studied in another field, according to Student Loan Hero’s survey.

7. As many as 59% of borrowers who have started repayment may not be making payments

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Among accounts that have started repaying loans, Chase found that only 41% were actually current on their loans. That means that 59% of borrowers are behind.

They’re either in default (22%), in deferment (12%), in forbearance (8%), delinquent (11%), or on an income-driven repayment plan but paying nothing (6%).

So if you’re in the same boat, just know it’s normal. You’re not alone.

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