Sunday, July 5, 2015

47 Members Of Congress Hold Student Loan Debt

(Russ Choma)  Members of Congress are, on average,far wealthier than the typical American, but an increasing number of them have a now typical American financial obligation: student loan debt.
Forty-seven members of Congress had a cumulative total of between $1.8 million and $4.6 million in student loan debt in 2013, according to their personal financial disclosure statements. That includes loans for themselves, their spouses or their children.
The 2013 numbers — the most recent available — represent an uptick from previous years. Last year, OpenSecrets Blog found that in 2012 just 41 members of Congresscarried student loan debt, totaling between $1.5 million and $3.8 million (an exact figure can’t be pinpointed because lawmakers list their assets and liabilities in broad ranges). But to put things in context, just over 8 percent of members of Congress have some form of student loan debt, compared to almost 13 percent of Americans overall (an estimated 40 million) who hold a total of more than $1.2 trillion in such debt.
The 47 members had, on average, $68,500 in student loan debt — significantly higher than the $26,842 owed on average by American households with student loan debt in 2010.
It can be difficult to determine exactly who owes the money in a congressional household. Some members of Congress disclose whose education was being financed and at what institution, but others are vague. Of the 62 total student loans disclosed (some lawmakers listed more than one loan), seven were explicitly described as being for a child and 15 were in the name of a spouse.
Six lawmakers were at the top end of the average amount owed — $170,000 (or between $100,000 and $250,000). All are House members, evenly split between Republicans and Democrats: Reps. James Bridenstine (R-Okla.), John Carter (R-Texas), Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y) andRaul Ruiz (D-Calif.).
Indicating the diverse range of members who have student loans, Rooney is the 59th wealthiest member of the House, with an average net worth in 2013 of $18.7 million (he lists a racetrack in Yonkers, N.Y., as an asset), while Conyers is 85 years old and had an average net worth that year of minus $187,501 (yes, nearly $200,000 in the hole). According to the form, Conyers’ debt appears to be for his wife, Monica Conyers, and was incurred in the “late 1990s.” Conyers’ press secretary declined to comment or describe the loan in any more detail. A spokesperson for Meng said the student loan belonged to her husband and was taken out to pay for dental school.
Ruiz appears to have made significant progress on his student loan debt. He was first elected in 2012 and at the time reported owing between $115,000 and $300,000 on student loans. That made him, by far, the member with the highest amount of outstanding student loan debt. Ruiz has an undergraduate degree from UCLA, and a medical degree and two other advanced degrees from Harvard.
The party split on student loan debt? More Republicans than Democrats listing such a liability on their disclosure statements — 28 to 19.
The biggest divide among members with student loan debt, however, was not partisan, but by chamber. Just three of the 47 members of Congress who listed these loans were senators, and all are recent arrivals — Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah),Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)
Murphy, who ranks 96th in average wealth among members of the Senate, listed student loans for himself and his spouse, each worth between $15,000 and $50,000. Gardner listed a loan of between $15,000 and $50,000, while Lee had one for between $10,000 and $15,000.

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