The graduates have spoken. Student loan debt is weighing down a generation.
This week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau published almost 2,000 letters from people -- students, parents, school officials and more -- struggling with debt from private student lenders. The comments were collected for a report that will be presented to Congress next month.
Some of these people are trying to feed children. Others say they'll have to put off having them. Nearly everyone describes the private student loan industry -- which often charges higher interest rates than the federal loan system and is less forgiving when you're in financial distress -- as an opaque, maddening machine, where it's hard to get the help you need.
The complaints on the CFPB site may only represent a fraction of the misery that's out there. Student loan debt recently surpassed $1 trillion in the U.S., and while less than 7 percent of that is estimated to be held by private loan companies, it's still believed to be at least $7 billion.
For young graduates, this can be especially burdensome, since the job market for the past few years has been such an unforgiving place. Half of all young college grads are either jobless or underemployed, and many young adults have had to accept jobs at lower salaries than they'd get in a stronger economy -- a pay gap that is likely to linger for years among people unlucky enough to graduate after the financial crisis.