New Research Spotlights Those Battling Debt in the Biggest Arena
Student debt is being viewed as a major problem among Presidential candidates as well as the students carrying that burden, but a new research study shines light on which group carries the heaviest burden of them all.
Market Watch author Jillian Berman shares the story of one struggling student borrower, Danielle Adorno, and how her “pipe dream” landed her and her husband sharing $56,000 in debt with no hope in paying it off. Adorno attended The Art Institute, a for-profit institution, with high hopes that her hard earned degree would render a job allowing her to pay off her debts and take care of a family. Unfortunately this was not the case. Earning a mere $40,000 and jobless, Adorno said, “We’ve really been able to just scrape by.”
Chris Hardman, a senior vice president at the Education Management Corporation, the parent company of The Art Institute said their educational system works with students financially each step of the way providing guidance and financial literacy resources during the repayment process, however the school does not put restrictions on how much students can borrow.
A research study conducted by the Brookings Institution released results in their Fall 2015 Conference suggesting loan defaults are attributed to changes of the borrowers characteristics and in the institutions they chose to attend. This research also examines how borrowers with the least amount of debt are those with debts in default or forbearance.
The growth in students borrowing to attend for-profit and two year community colleges is now apparent and creates the majority of students who are struggling to pay off debts, if they pay them back at all due to economic struggles.
The new evidence draws a clear picture of how this crisis is disproportionate. A new database combined records on student borrowers with earnings information from de-identified tax records outlining how the default spike is driven by unconventional borrowers.
These unconventional borrowers fall into a category of low-income families and older students who are no longer supported by their parents, and may be taking on family responsibilities of their own. During the recession it seems many for-profit colleges, such as the former Corinthian Colleges, took advantage of struggling individuals who had lost their jobs. They used obscure marketing techniques to lure in students who were already living in the depths of poverty. Many of these student borrowers are those who face larger challenges than the traditional borrowers who attended 4 year universities, as finding a job in their trade is considered slim.
“There’s an assumption out there that because community and technical colleges and workforce retraining programs are lower cost than elite Ivy League institutions that borrowing isn’t an issue for those students, but it’s precisely the opposite. These are students who have fewer financial means to begin with, they’re more likely to borrow, and if they borrow, it’s just a fundamentally different prospect.” said Mark Huelsman, a senior policy analyst at think tank Demos.
Between 2002 and 2013 these unconventional student borrowers felt themselves under more weight when they saw their average earnings drop while those traditional-type borrowers of 4 year schools watched their average earnings rise during the same time period.
For-profit colleges have been under close watch by the media and with increased federal and state investigations, some of these for-profit campuses have since closed their doors, leaving more students seeking out traditional schools for higher education.