Student Debt, the New Home Equity Loan

Illustration by 731 Lexington, Photo: Getty Images

Consumer credit is on a tear. In January (the latest data available), consumers borrowed $17.8 billion, bringing outstanding consumer debt to $2.51 trillion. That’s the biggest three-month gain in more than a decade. Greater borrowing could be a good sign, showing that consumers are more confident—the magical emotion that can spur spending and help the economy rebound. But Dan Alpert, managing partner at Westwood Capital, a boutique investment bank, says not to start welcoming the “confidence fairy” yet. As he reads the numbers, something more troubling is going on.

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