College graduates struggle to get mortgages, homes

money houseAt one time, a college degree was almost a guarantee of homeownership. Now, high student loan debt is locking many graduates out of the housing market.

A recent report from the Young Invincibles shows growing student debt burdens are excluding many otherwise-qualified graduates from the home-buying market – a trend that’s sure to crimp the tepid economic recovery.

According to their analysis, the typical graduate’s debt-to-income ratio makes it nearly impossible to qualify for a mortgage. A single student borrower would spend about half of their monthly income on mortgage, student loan, credit card, and car payments – making them unqualified for many home loans. Couples also face challenges, especially if both hold educational debt. Declining salaries, weaker workplace benefits, and a bad economy all compound the problem.

Of course, locking a generation of graduates out of the housing market during a time of economic instability isn’t just bad for them – it’s bad for the economy. Rory O’Sullivan, Policy Director at Young Invincibles explains:

As educational debt grows, it pushes more borrowers out of the housing market, potentially adding another drag to an economy only just emerging from the Great Recession.

Research also indicates individuals with student loans are less likely to start a business, and more likely to delay major purchases such as a car or home. While there’s still scant information on how those decisions change over the course of loan repayment, a 511% increase in student debt over the past decade will surely delay economic recovery in an economy that relies on the housing market to drive economic growth.

Instead of burdening student with crushing debt, we should look at new ways to make college more affordable. One of those ideas is Pay it Forward:

[Pay it Forward is] an open opportunity for any graduating senior — limited by only their own academic performance — to attend their local community college or a state public university, tuition-free. In exchange, a legal quid pro quo: the student contributes 1.5 percent of their income, if they attended community college, or 4 percent if they attended a university, for 25 years.

A sound financing model for higher education will help ensure graduating students leave college without the burden of a lifetime in debt, and set Washington schools up to better serve the needs of students, families and our economy.

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