WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 (UPI) — More than 50 members of Congress, including some of the wealthiest members of the House, owe on student loans, collectively contributing millions of dollars to the national student loan debt of $1.2 trillion.
Opensecrets.org, a website operated by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, found about 10 percent of Congress, including non-voting House members, owe on their own student loans or had close family members who owe. Of the 53 in total, three were senators. More than half, 31, were Republicans.
Using 2014 personal financial disclosure statements, Opensecrets.org found 11 members reported the loans belonged to spouses and 14 indicated they were for children. Nine members reported having more than one loan to repay.
Members of Congress and top executive branch officials are required to disclose liabilities totaling more than $10,000. The disclosure form uses broad range values, rather than exact dollar amounts, beginning with debts from $10,001 to $15,000 and ending with debts more than $50,000,000.
Using those range values, they collectively owe between $1.6 million and $4.1 million, the organization said.
Opensecrets.org found Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., one of the wealthiest members of the House with a net worth of about $43 million, owed between $40,003 and $115,000 in student loan debts stemming from his wife’s law school education.
At the same time, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., who has a net worth of negative $2.2 million, owed between $10,000 and $15,000 as a loan co-signer for his niece’s Fannie Mae debt.
The information comes as borrowers struggle to pay more than $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt, of which some $103 billion is in default.
Student debt and college costs have become an emotionally charged issue across the country with student-led protests and some simply refusing to repay their debts. Presidential hopefuls have pitched ideas that include free community college and partnering students with investors who are repaid through a percentage of the borrower’s earnings.