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Biden administration moves to protect Alaska wilderness; opening statements and first witness in NY trial; SCOTUS hears Starbucks case, with implications for unions on the line; rural North Carolina town gets pathway to home ownership.

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The Supreme Court weighs cities ability to manage a growing homelessness crisis, anti-Israeli protests spread to college campuses nationwide, and more states consider legislation to ban firearms at voting sites and ballot drop boxes.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

Majority of seniors with student loans have held their debt at least 15 years

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Tuesday, December 26, 2023   

New federal data from the Department of Education confirmed retirement-age borrowers are struggling to repay their federal student loans.

About 60% of borrowers over age 62 have been making federal student-loan payments for more than 15 years.

Tia Caldwell, policy analyst for the Education, Opportunity and Mobility Initiative at the nonprofit New America, suspects many other borrowers have been paying even longer. She said until now, her team had been using 2016 data from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The updated numbers offer valuable insight into the realities many older borrowers are grappling with, in Utah and across the country.

"There is this huge growth of older borrowers," Caldwell pointed out. "So many people are struggling with their student loans and are unable to repay their loans in the time frame that they probably imagined they would be able to when they took out those loans."

Caldwell added financially-strapped borrowers often pause their loan payments or enroll in affordable, income-driven repayment plans, but these can extend the repayment terms by years. They may also spend time in default, which can have punitive consequences.

Sarah Sattelmeyer, project director of the initiative, said the new data paint a bleak picture. One in three federal borrowers is in default, and about 80% of seniors with loans hold debt from their own education. But she noted it is important to have the information.

"Until now, we really have been taking what I like to call a 'beg, borrow and steal' -- although maybe not the 'stealing' part -- approach to getting data," Sattelmeyer stressed. "It is really hard to come up with the right policy solutions when you don't understand which groups are most impacted."

Sattelmeyer emphasized the latest figures make the issue harder to ignore. She added New America commends the Biden administration's work on student debt relief but argued more work is needed.


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