It’s The College Loan Debt, Stupid

1202917118Whenever my alma mater asks me for donations, it’s all I can do not to laugh at the poor undergrad who had the misfortune of calling. I don’t scoff because I didn’t get a good education. I turn them down as gently as possible because I’m going to be paying off my liberal arts degree until 2019.

I have a similar reaction when I read articles about the declining number of young adults who are buying homes. It’s not that we don’t want to. We just can’t afford to buy a home with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt already hanging over us.

The Herald has been all over the young people and the cost of housing beat this week. On Monday, the paper reports that the cost of housing in Massachusetts isn’t as prohibitive as some have claimed.

[The report]. . . notes that young professionals in this region have 14 percent higher incomes than those across the nation, partially offsetting high housing prices and making home purchases less burdensome than often estimated.

The study doesn’t factor in a young buyer’s student loan debt, but the Herald’s Jay Fitzgerald does find a woman who cites that as part of the reason she can’t afford to buy in Massachusetts.

In today’s edition, Scott Van Voorhis reports on another study that found young adults aren’t buying homes. The study blames the dropoff in the lack of affordable “starter homes” in the state, but doesn’t mention student debt at all.

“The drop in the number of buyers in the 25- to 34-year-old age group is further evidence of the exodus of this educated age group from our state and the continued need for the development of starter homes,” said Susan Renfrew, MAR’s president and broker and co-owner of Renfrew Real Estate in Greenfield. (Emphasis added.)

We may be educated, but we’re broke even before we toss our mortarboards in the air. A private four-year college graduate has about $17,125 in student loan debt. That would make for a pretty sizable down payment on a house.
There’s been a lot of talk about what can be done to salvage the economy during this recession. Helping homeowners who face foreclosure and cutting some refund checks won’t hurt matters, but neither would helping out debt-saddled college graduates.