In the same way that government created the housing bubble, the government has created the college-loan bubble.
Once upon a time, government officials decided it would help them keep their jobs if they could claim they had expanded the middle class. Unfortunately, none of them really understood economics or even the historical factors that led to the emergence of the middle class in the first place. But they did know two things: Middle class people tended to own their own homes, and they sent their kids to college.
So in true cargo cult fashion, they decided to increase the middle class by promoting these markers of being middle class. They threw the Federal government strongly behind promoting home ownership and college education. A large part of this effort entailed offering easy debt financing for housing and education. Because the whole point was to add poorer people to the middle class, their was a strong push to strip away traditional underwriting criteria for these loans (e.g. down payments, credit history, actual income to pay debt, etc.)
We know what happened in the housing market. The government promoted home ownership with easy loans, and made these loans a favorite investment by giving them a preferential treatment in the capital requirements for banks. And then the bubble burst, with the government taking the blame for the bubble. Just kidding, the government blamed private lenders for their lax underwriting standards, conviniently forgetting that every President since Reagan had encouraged such laxity (they called it something else, like “giving access to the poor”, but it means the same thing).
What are the chances that we bail out all those kids who’ve majored in such “in demand” course work as Art History, Religious Studies, Women’s Studies and others?
I’d say pretty high.