High degree of debt

Dallas residents are seriously weighed down by this type of debt

Dallas residents are seriously weighed down by this type of debt

graduation cap, money, college
Last year, the average student loan balance in Dallas County was $33,256. Photo courtesy of Stack.com

Dallas, we’ve got a massive problem when it comes to student loan debt — and the problem appears to be getting worse.

A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas sends a clear warning about how critical the student loan situation is among Dallas County residents. For instance, the report shows average student loan debt in Dallas County (adjusted for inflation) soared 60 percent from 2003 to 2017.

“This growth is due to both an increase in the number of borrowers and an increase in the loans taken out by each borrower,” says Emily Perlmeter, a community development analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank, who authored the report.

The report attributes the 60 percent growth rate to skyrocketing tuition, increases in loans being taken out by graduate students, and a lack of restrictions on this type of credit.

Perlmeter points out that student loan debt is the fastest-growing type of debt in Dallas County, compared with mortgage debt, which was up 25 percent from 2003 to 2017; credit card debt, which actually declined; and auto-loan debt, which stayed fairly flat.

Last year, the average student loan balance in Dallas County was $33,256, according to the report. Nationally, the average student loan debt for the Class of 2016 is $27,975, slightly higher than the statewide average of $26,236.

Making matters worse in Dallas County, the amount of seriously overdue student loans is ballooning, the report says. In 2017, Dallas County residents had $1.4 billion in student loans that were at least 90 days overdue, representing a whopping 535 percent jump since 2003 (adjusted for inflation).

In all, nearly one-fifth of the county's residents had at least one student loan that was seriously overdue, according to the report.

Perlmeter says the delinquency trend is troubling, particularly for people with low credit scores.

“But because higher education is so critical for economic opportunity, we have to strike the right balance between keeping delinquencies low and improving access to college and beyond,” she says.

Over the years, various members of Congress from the Dallas-Fort Worth area have pushed legislation aimed at easing the pain of student loan debt. For instance, U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant, an Irving Republican, filed a bill in 2015 that would have raised the federal tax deduction for married couples who have student loan debt.

“Student loan debt is a crushing financial burden that is making it more difficult for young Americans to build a secure and successful middle-class life,” Marchant said in 2015. “This is both a personal hardship and a national economic issue because it can discourage Americans from starting a family, becoming homeowners, and saving for retirement.”