Is The So-Called Student Loan Crisis One Big Exaggeration?

Hear that sound? It’s the collective freakout of students across the nation as it comes time for them to finally pay up on those student loans. But while student loan debt is a big issue, at over $1 trillion total, experts are telling everyone to take a deep breath and calm down, because it’s really not that bad.

Please, convince us, as we stare into the bottomless abyss of sending away chunks of change to various lenders every year for the rest of our lives! CNNMoney talked to a few smartypants people who say student debt won’t hit our economy as hard as say, the mortgage crisis. This, in contrast to other experts who warned that student loan debt is a ticking time bomb.

“I don’t think it’s a bubble,” said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Finaid.org, a financial aid website. “Most students who graduate college are able to repay their loans.”

Of course, plenty of us have issues with our loans — and student debt now tops credit card and auto loans. But while we’re taking on more student debt on average, and more than a quarter are behind on payments, more people are going to college, due to the economic downturn. In turn, more debt is created. Rising tuition costs are also prompting students to take on more debt.

Because some people have such high debt, that skews the average amount of debt per student pretty high — at about $27,000. That’s partly because of a high number of graduate students taking out private student loans. Really, only around 10% of students have more than $45,000 to pay off.

So even if it’s not as bad of a situation as some make it out to be, it’s still a serious business, as many can’t find jobs right out of college in the current economic environment. What it all boils down to is the payoff in the long run, says one expert, as those with bachelor’s degrees earn about $650,000 more over their lifetime than their peers who only have high school diplomas.

“It’s an economic investment,” said Sarah Turner, professor of economic and education at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. “It’s not going to work for everyone, but on average, it has a high return.”

There is no student loan ‘crisis’ [CNNMoney]