Recent WSJ piece reports that some private sector lenders are now offering refinancing options to college graduates with student loans. The offers are selective, going to those with sound credit scores and well-paying jobs. One student was able to lower her interest rate from 7.2 to 4.7 percent. Lenders mentioned include Social Finance, CommonBond, Citizens Financial, Earnest Operations, and Darien Rowayton.
The economic logic behind this market: the feds (and a few private lenders) offer one-size-fits-all terms for student loans -- an interest rate around 7% and a repayment period around 10 years. These same terms are available to all borrowers, regardless of their ability to repay the loan. After graduation private lenders can identify which students are good bets to make repayments and can profitably invest in those who appear to have great career prospects. In today's credit markets, 4.7% repayment options are very attractive.
This changes the mix of the risk pool for the feds. If the best repayment bets increasingly move to private sector funding, guess who remains in the pool? And guess who will eventually have to cover a rising percentage of bad loans in that pool? The parallels to the health insurance market are uncanny, with the private sector being more than willing to cover those with good health prospects while at the same time leaving the government to cover everyone else. It would be naive to think that the federal government will allow the private sector to have a free hand in the student loan market for an extended period of time.
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