Report: Sinking Under Student Debt, VA Voters Ask Candidates for Relief
Monday, October 4, 2021
RICHMOND, Va. -- With the Virginia governor's race neck and neck, advocates are urging candidates to address easing the burden of student debt after a new report found nearly half of Virginia voters struggle with the challenge.
The AARP Virginia survey found one-third of Virginia voters ages 18 to 49 say student debt prevented them from getting needed health care.
Jim Dau, state director for AARP Virginia, added 60% of voters ages 50 to 64 said debt has kept them from saving for retirement, showing even older Virginians are suffering from excessive school debt loads.
"Let those numbers sink in," Dau urged. "This is huge, and it's jarring and has a real impact not only on Virginia and Virginians today, but it's going to impact us and where we live in our communities for years to come."
He is pressing state voters to contact the gubernatorial candidates to outline how they could provide relief.
Both Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin have talked about ways to strengthen secondary education on the campaign trail, but neither has directly discussed student-loan forgiveness nor protections.
Research shows seniors are the fastest-growing population in the United States to become crippled by student-loan debt. Dau pointed out Americans 50 or older held more than $330 billion in student debt in 2020, much of it from supporting family members through college.
"If you default on a student debt, your Social Security benefits could get garnished," Dau cautioned. "So at a time when you don't have the career, the wages to make up for lost savings, you're now finding that big source of retirement security is now being further eaten up."
The study showed Virginians of color are especially hit hard with the strain of student debt. Almost three-quarters of Black Virginians say student debt prevented them from saving for retirement, and more than 60% of Hispanic voters report student debt blocked them or a loved one from buying a home.
A majority of voters polled agree the state government should protect borrowers from predatory loan practices.
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