How the Rising Cost of College and Growing Amount of Student Loans Are Destroying Our Economy

College costs are rising, and student loans are growing even faster. And the U.S. Government recently revealed this is impacting our economy in more ways than one.

Jun 15, 2014 at 8:47AM

By Seanmcgrath
Source: Flickr / 

With student loans now officially in the trillions, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau believes these rising levels of debt could have a disastrous impact on the American economy. Last week, Rohit Chopra, the Student Loan Ombudsman for the CFPB, spoke to the Senate Committee on the Budget about what the rising level of debt from student loans is doing to our economy.

This, of course, is a topic that has garnered much attention of late. In his State of the Union address, President Obama said, "I want to work with Congress to see how we can help even more Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt."

By Meddygarnet

Source: Flickr / meddygarnet.

With student loan debt now surpassing credit card debt, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers noted that millions are slower to buy new homes and form families, and the reason driving this was the "overarching life-shaping imperative of managing student debts for too many young people." Nobel Prize recipient Joseph Stiglitz agreed with Summers and said: "We have really an educational crisis in our country. It's affecting our potential future growth and it's affecting our economic performance right now."

When you consider that total student loans have grown more than 4.5 times since 2003, it should come as no surprise that many are worried about the impact this debt is having on the American economy:

Source: New York Federal Reserve.

The disastrous effects
Chopra's prepared remarks in Washington focused on how the rising levels of student debt -- which is owed by more than 40 million Americans -- has had wide-ranging impacts on the American economy. And this rising debt -- like the housing collapse that spurred the Great Recession five years ago -- could have a "domino effect" on the entire economy.

On the subject of homeownership, Chopra cited studies which have revealed that the growing level of student debt has resulted in fewer younger Americans feeling comfortable buying homes. The National Association of Realtors found that 49% of Americans said student loan debt was a "huge obstacle" to homeownership. Chopra himself said, "Professionals on the front line of the housing industry -- from real estate agents to builders to mortgage bankers -- have all described the challenges posed by student debt to homeownership."

By Svadilfari

Source: Flickr / Svadilfari.

Fewer buyers hurts those looking to sell their homes. Plus, the impact of student debt extends beyond buyers and sellers; it also extends to those who are looking to rent, but cannot because of their debt levels.

But it extends beyond housing. Increased debt means less opportunity to save for retirement, which one study found could result in a loss of almost $135,000 in retirement savings. With higher debt levels, fewer doctors and teachers are willing to work in rural or specialty fields if it results in less pay. And high levels of debt make people less inclined and able to innovate by starting new small businesses.

With all of that in mind, it's no wonder Chopra reminded us, "Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew remarked that student debt is 'hampering our economy' across multiple sectors of society."

The key takeaways
All this information isn't to suggest that college is no longer worth it -- just the opposite is true -- but it sheds light on the reality that there are true costs and benefits associated with attending college and amassing debt. It's likely that more needs to be done to communicate what the true costs are in attending certain schools versus others, or choosing one degree over another.

It's also encouraging to know the CFPB is asking for greater transparency surrounding student loan debt held by certain institutions. And the thought of the CFPB pushing for the ability to refinance and restructure student loans -- like countless other borrowings -- could have great success.

There is a true financial impact when attending college. We have to hope that more will be done to ensure that the benefit always outweighs the cost.

Take advantage of this little-known tax "loophole"
It isn't just student loans that are scary, but taxes, too. Thankfully, we're here to help. Recent tax increases have affected nearly every American taxpayer. But with the right planning, you can take steps to take control of your taxes and potentially even lower your tax bill. In our brand-new special report, "The IRS Is Daring You to Make This Investment Now!," you'll learn about the simple strategy to take advantage of a little-known IRS rule. Don't miss out on advice that could help you cut taxes for decades to come. Click here to learn more.

Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.


Compare Brokers