There are now more than $1 trillion in outstanding student loans in the United States.
It’s no secret that that’s delaying and distorting all kinds of traditional growing-up milestones: careers, marriages, home-buying, and child-rearing, to name just a few.
That’s painful enough now for a generation trying to define a new adulthood in the new economy.
But the real question is what this means a couple of decades from now, when our children are reaching traditional college age: if the Millennials and Gen Z-ers are still paying off our own college debts and we don’t have our parents’ pre-2008 home equity that allowed a big chunk of us to go to college, who will be able to attend?
If current trends continue, I expect we’ll also see a continuation of the great sorting: college (especially famous colleges) will become a luxury good for the very wealthy and some number of scholarship students.
But it’s hard for me to imagine those of us who lived the home equity-leveraged suburban dream in the first couple decades of this century willingly signing ourselves and our kids up for another couple of trillion dollars in debt.