Student Loan Lending Still Going Strong
Student Loan Lending Still Going Strong
Published 12 January 09 04:34 PM | Student Loan Girl
Despite being hampered last year by a lack of investors and a lack of access to credit, federal student loan lenders are surviving the economic crisis — making the student loan market one of the few lending industries still able to thrive this year, The Wall Street Journal reports (“Tuition Ammunition: a Happy Lesson on Lending,” Jan. 6, 2008).

Proactive and swift action by the federal government, which guaranteed 18.6 percent more student loans for the 2008-09 academic year than the previous year, has helped the student loan industry avoid the decreases in volume seen by the mortgage and banking industries.

In addition to a move by the Treasury Department to infuse tens of billions of dollars into U.S. banks so lenders could issue new student loans, Congress passed legislation that allowed the federal government to buy up student loan securities from cash-strapped lenders.

The Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act (HR 5715) was intended to help student loan lenders, allowing the government to buy loans directly from these lenders, and may have contributed to a 9.4-percent climb in loan originations for the 2008–09 academic year by lenders in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP). While the legislation has been in place, the government has purchased about $97 million in student loans and invested nearly $10 billion in student loan trusts, figures that are expected to grow before the end of this school year.

“What we’ve seen so far is that programs we have put in place are having the desired effect,” said Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. Although she’s optimistic that the government’s efforts to boost student lending are working, she said she’s not ready to “declare any victories.”

Credit Markets Hinder Private Student Loan Lenders

While federal student loan lenders seem to be riding out the economic storm, observers say it’s unclear whether the private student loan market, which is suffering greatly from the credit crunch, will experience the same success.

After the market for selling bundled student loan securities dried up, the Federal Reserve initiated a $200 billion program in the hopes of encouraging investors to continue buying these securities. Analysts say, however, that these efforts may not be enough for the private student loan industry to compete with the demand for and the availability of low-cost federal student loans.

Last school year, private student loans accounted for about $17.6 billion, just one-fifth of the $85.9 billion in total student loan lending, according to the College Board. This year, lenders and analysts estimate that private student loan lenders have done 25 percent less business.

Already 39 lenders have stopped making private student loans, and others have tightened their lending criteria, both of which may force financially struggling families to pursue more affordable higher education options, said Tim Ranzetta, president of Student Lending Analytics, an independent research and advisory firm. “The cloud of this financing issue,” Ranzetta said, “will push more [students] to state public universities and community colleges.”

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