If you think the federal student-loan program looks like a bad deal for taxpayers, imagine how it would look with honest accounting. And now you don't need to imagine thanks to a new report that's receiving far too little attention. Turns out that the official "savings" for taxpayers of $184 billion over the next decade really add up to $95 billion in losses.
Here's the scam: Lawmakers peddle what is a massive subsidy for universities while claiming that student loans generate a windfall for the taxpayer. This phony windfall is conjured by creative accounting that politicians mandated via the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990. Specifically, the law requires a deliberate under-counting of the cost of defaults. …
To its credit, the Congressional Budget Office has noted on various occasions that while the law forces it to use this Beltway math, CBO knows it's not accurate under fair-value accounting. And in a new report on the costs of student loans made in the decade ending in 2023, CBO quantifies the size of this discrepancy at $279 billion. CBO adds with its typically wry understatement that Washington's mandated accounting method "does not consider some costs borne by the government."