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Many Lawmakers Dealing With Student Loan Debt

Millions of adults across the country are still struggling with outstanding student loan debt in their name, and that includes many who have been out in the workforce for decades, as well as some of the nation’s top lawmakers.

In recent years, 46 members of the U.S. Congress still carry student loan debt of some kind, and the total value of those balances could be as high as a combined $4.3 million, according to new research from the nonprofit Open Secrets Center for Responsive Politics. The list of lawmakers includes five U.S. Senators and 41 Representatives.

The most indebted of all these lawmakers was U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz of California, a first-term Democrat with between $115,001 and $300,000 in debts from his time at UCLA and Harvard, where he earned a medical degree and two other graduate degrees, the report said. Meanwhile, on the other side of America’s bicameral legislature, Sen. Marco Rubio claims to have had between $100,000 and $250,000 in student loan debt as a result of his attending law school, but then paid it off with the proceeds from a recent book. Currently four first-term Senators say they have student loan debt of some kind, most notably Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Those two will serve on the Senate Education Committee in the near future.

[Related Article: How a College Education Could Cost $0 in the Future]

It’s possible that with a growing number of lawmakers carrying student loan balances into their time in office, there will be a greater importance placed on helping struggling graduates to deal with their obligations, the report said. The previous Congress’s Senate Education Committee didn’t have any members with outstanding student loan debt.

“The problem has grown enough that even members of Congress now have loans,” Mark Kantrowitz, a financial aid expert and publisher of FinAid.org, told the site. “Clearly someone who has had student loans and gone through the pains of paying them is going to be more sympathetic than someone who never had to borrow money to pay for college.”

Today, the average college student leaves school with tens of thousands of dollars in debt spread across multiple accounts, which makes it very difficult for many to find financial independence soon after graduation, particularly because the job market for those with limited work experience is often still very difficult.

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