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FICO Labs: U.S. Student Loan Delinquencies Climbing Fast, Showing No Signs Of Slowing

SAN JOSE, Calif., Jan. 29, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Research by FICO Labs into the growing student lending crisis in the U.S. has found that, as a group, individuals taking out student loans today pose a significantly greater risk of default than those who took out student loans just a few years ago. The situation is compounded by significant growth in the amount of debt that new graduates are carrying.

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The delinquency rate today on student loans that were originated from 2005-2007 is 12.4 percent. The comparable figure for student loans that were originated from 2010-2012 is 15.1 percent, representing an increase in the delinquency rate by nearly 22 percent.

While the delinquency rate is climbing, the average amount of student loan debt is increasing even faster. In 2005, the average U.S. student loan debt was $17,233. By 2012, it had ballooned to more than $27,253 – an increase of 58 percent in seven years. By contrast, the average credit card balance and the average balance on car loans owed by U.S. consumers actually decreased during the same period.

In a related finding, FICO's quarterly survey of bank risk managers conducted in December 2012 found that nearly 60 percent of respondents expected delinquencies on student loans to increase over the next six months. The same respondents expected delinquencies on all other types of consumer loans to decrease, putting the pessimism around student loans in sharp relief.

"This situation is simply unsustainable and we're already suffering the consequences," said Dr. Andrew Jennings, FICO's chief analytics officer and head of FICO Labs. "When wage growth is slow and jobs are not as plentiful as they once were, it is impossible for individuals to continue taking out ever-larger student loans without greatly increasing the risk of default. There is no way around that harsh reality."

Jennings continued, "As more people default on their student loans, their credit ratings will drop, making it harder for them to access new credit and help grow the economy. Even people who stay current on their student loans are dealing with very large debts, which reduces the money they have available to spend elsewhere. The stakeholders in the student lending industry have to take a hard look at the terms and repayment rules for student loans, and the industry may have to develop a new lending model to prevent a bad situation from getting completely out of hand."

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