The US Department of Education's new data on the status of outstanding student loans show that outright defaults are up. However, their press release — and much of the accompanying media coverage — instead played up a decline in loan delinquencies. The increase in defaults is worrisome and needs to be addressed by Congress.
The total amount of outstanding direct student loans stood at $855 billion at the beginning of the first quarter of 2016, distributed among over 30 million recipients. (This total does not include loans still outstanding under the now-discontinued FFEL program, which guaranteed private-sector student loans.) The total direct loan amount outstanding is up roughly 15 percent over a year ago, doubtlessly the result of relentless tuition increases.