The N.Y. Federal Reserve just completed this study on student loan debt. Total outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. is $870 billion. 15.4% of the 241 million people in the United States who have a credit report with Equifax, the company that provided data to the Fed, carry student loan debt. And get this: Adjusting to exclude student loan debtors who are in a grace period, about 25% of student loan debt is in default (to be precise, about 21% of all student loans and about 27% of all student loan debtors). These rates are far higher than the delinquency rates for credit card debt, mortgages, and car loans.
So, what will happen? It strikes me as unlikely that most of the debtors will be able to pay their way out of default. Will the taxpayers foot the bill? Bear in mind that, except in unusual circumstances (what the law calls "undue hardship"), student loan debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.
Read more about the issue in today's LA Times.