Over 50 members of Congress owe a combined $1.8 million on student loans according to a Roll Call analysis. The debt is split fairly evenly across party lines with slightly more Republicans holding student loans (28 to the Democrats 25) and Democrats owing slightly more ($1 million to the Republicans $830,000).
Congressional Debt Findings
According to Roll Call:
- 16 of the members of Congress with student debt are in their first term.
- Republican Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina owes the most at $150,000.
- Much of the student debt owed was used to pay for dependent children’s education.
- Generation Xers in Congress owe the most, with 1 in 4 members carrying student debt.
- While there are a few millennial members of Congress, none have student debt.
- 25 members of Congress have a negative net worth due to student loans.
Does this help the average borrower?
It would be nice to live in a world where Congress acted solely on the basis of what was best for their constituents and personal experiences and biases didn’t enter the equation. However, the reality is that each member of Congress comes with a unique background, and this background can certainly influence how they generate and view legislation.
As more student loan borrowers are elected, Congress will hopefully become more representative of the many Americans living with student loans. Such a shift could increase the odds of commonsense legislation that actually helps borrowers.
As an example, one member of Congress, California Democrat Mark Takano, refinanced his federal loans with SoFi. This experience could provide first hand insight on how federal student loan servicing compares to the private sector and the significance that interest rates have on repayment. Obviously, all members of Congress have staffs, many of whom also have student loans, and access to multitudes of information to guide the legislation they draft and vote upon. But nothing creates a more lasting impression than first-hand personal experience. Perhaps Representative Tekano will utilize his experiences to help make student loan management better for all borrowers.
The Real Impact
If nothing else, the growing numbers of student loan borrowers in Congress demonstrate how far reaching student loan debt has become in the United States.
It might be nothing but blind optimism to hope that more student loan borrowers in Congress means better student loan policy, but years from now we may look back upon this Congressional demographic shift and point to it as one of the catalysts for improved student loan legislation.