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Report: Student Loans Weigh Heavily on NC Communities

Mor Aframian (center) graduated from college with advanced degrees and $75,000 in debt. She's pictured here at the Redress Raleigh Fashion Show, which she co-founded while a student.
Mor Aframian (center) graduated from college with advanced degrees and $75,000 in debt. She's pictured here at the Redress Raleigh Fashion Show, which she co-founded while a student.
January 12, 2016

RALEIGH, N. C. – An estimated 60 percent of North Carolina ZIP Codes have high rates of student loan delinquency, according to a report from the Center for American Progress.

The organization mapped debt by ZIP Code and found many counties in the state have high debt rates, most in rural areas.

Evan Degnan with Progress NC, a statewide group that analyzed the findings, explains what the map appears to confirm.

"When you look at the map, in terms of the delinquency rates, more rural areas where you have more concentrations of poverty is where you see these really high delinquency rates," says Degnan. "This is something that's affecting a large swath of the population of North Carolina."

Nationwide, student debt amounts to more than $1.3 trillion, and 43 million Americans owe debt related to their student loans. The report highlights relief programs, particularly for borrowers with federal loans, but Degnan and others say many in need are not aware of the help available.

Raleigh resident Mor Aframian accrued $75,000 in student loans while getting her undergraduate and master's degrees. Now at age 28, she says she has paid off just one-third of the balance, as she looks for work with her marketing and event-planning expertise.

"All of my offers told me I was either overqualified for the job, or they're not really looking for somebody with a master's degree," says Aframian. "So, it kind of felt like I went on and got this additional education – but now, nobody can afford to hire me."

In addition to many entry-level jobs not paying enough for graduates to pay off their debt, Degnan points to the issues of increased tuition rates and commercial entities involved in higher education.

"There are obviously just the incredible increases in the cost of higher education - both in traditional schools and then obviously, these kind of emerging online universities - that really milk some students for a lot of money and rack up enormous student debt bills," says Degnan.

The report recommends that at the state level, as with other kinds of debt, student-loan borrowers should be allowed to refinance their debt, which is currently difficult to do.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC