The student loan bubble is starting to burst
The largest bank in the United States will stop making student loans in a few weeks.
The official reason is quite bland.
"We just don't see this as a market that we can significantly grow," Thasunda Duckett tells Reuters. Duckett is the chief executive for auto and student loans at Chase, which means she's basically delivering the news that a large part of her business is getting closed down.
The move is eerily reminiscent of the subprime shutdown that happened in 2007. Each time a bank shuttered its subprime unit, the news was presented in much the same way that JPMorgan is spinning the end of its student lending.
"It's no longer sustainable and not the right place to allocate capital in the future," HSBC Holdings Group Chief Executive Michael Geoghegan said in a statement the day HSBC shut down its subprime unit in 2007.
"Lehman Brothers announced today that market conditions have necessitated a substantial reduction in its resources and capacity in the subprime space," the press release issued in August 2007 said.
There is over $1 trillion in outstanding student loans, making it the second largest source of household debt after mortgages. Just 10 years ago, student loans stood at $240 billion. About $150 billion of the total is comprised of private student loans made by banks and other financial institutions, according to a report issued by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau last year.
(Read more: Why falling college enrollment could be good for markets.)
The CFPB reported that around $8 billion of private student loans were in default. That number is likely to go higher if interest rates rise because most private student loans, unlike federal loans, are variable rate loans linked to Libor or the prime rate.
JPMorgan's actually the second big private lender to step away from the business. Last year US Bancorp exited the business. That leaves Wells Fargo & Co., Discover Financial Services Inc., PNC Financial Services Group, SunTrust Banks Inc., and various credit unions as the largest private student lenders. Oh, and of course, Sallie Mae, which was privatized in 2004.
(Read more: The college tuition bubble may have burst.)
I won't be surprised if a few more of these lenders decide that they want out of the student loan racket.
Of course, the entity with the biggest exposure to student loan defaults is the U.S. government.
—By CNBC's John Carney. Follow me on Twitter @Carney