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Google the phrase “student lending crisis” and you’ll be inundated with nearly two million links to a myriad of articles, blogs and editorials detailing the demise of the student lending industry. Before you chalk it up to governmental blunders and greedy bankers and move on to more pressing credit union issues like how you’re going to sell used car loans to a membership base whose average age is pushing 50, take heed of a statement made by John F. Kennedy in 1959.

“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.”

So, where is the opportunity amid the turmoil? Take a closer look at the problem, which first began with the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 that slashed the yield lenders earn on federal loans. That tropical depression for student lenders grew into a Category Five hurricane in 2008 with unprecedented market turmoil and restricted access to capital, as the market for securitized loans–which student lenders sell to raise capital so they can fund more loans–simply evaporated. As a Wall Street Journal editorial succinctly stated, ” The combination of legislative fiat and fewer investors willing to buy asset-backed securities amid the credit crunch has put the squeeze on lenders.” This squeeze forced many traditional lenders to exit the marketplace for both federal and private student lending, leaving students and families scrambling for financing like never before.

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