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Borrowers push to delay student loan payments

The Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) -- More borrowers are asking for relief from their student loan payments, as loan balances mount and unemployment for recent college graduates remains high.

The credit reporting company Transunion found 51 percent of all student loan accounts in the U.S. are "deferred," allowing borrowers to postpone making payments, sometimes for up to three years.

But with unemployment high for young people, it's a sign that many of them will struggle to repay their loans, said Ezra Becker, vice president of research and consulting at TransUnion, in a statement.

To conduct the study, TransUnion looked through its consumer credit database for active student loans between March 2007 and March 2012. During that period, the average student loan burden increased from $18,379 to $23,829. Loans in deferment soared 70 percent, from $228 billion to $388 billion.

More federal student loans also became delinquent. As of last March, more than one in 10 federal student loans were more than 90 days past due, according to the study. A little more than 5 percent of private student loans were that far behind.

"It's important to highlight that both federal and private student loan delinquency rates are higher than most other credit products such as mortgages, home equity lines of credit, credit cards and auto loans," Becker said, according to the statement.