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Withholding Social Security to Repay Student Debt

December 21, 2016

The federal government is withholding a portion of Social Security benefits from a growing number of older Americans to cover defaulted student loan debt, according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. This so-called offset accounted for about $171 million of the $4.5 billion in defaulted student loan debt that the U.S. Department of Education collected in 2015.

The report found that among older borrowers (age 50 and older) who were subject to the offset for the first time between 2001 and 2015, about 43 percent had held their student loans for 20 years or more. And three-quarters of these older borrowers had taken loans only for their own education, with most owing less than $10,000.

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Paul Fain

Paul Fain, Contributing Editor, came to Inside Higher Ed in September 2011, after a six-year stint covering leadership and finance for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Paul has also worked in higher ed P.R., with Widmeyer Communications, but couldn't stay away from reporting. A former staff writer for C-VILLE Weekly, a newspaper in Charlottesville, Va., Paul has written for The New York Times, Washington City Paper and Mother Jones. He's won a few journalism awards, including one for beat reporting from the Education Writers Association and the Dick Schaap Excellence in Sports Journalism Award. Paul got hooked on journalism while working too many hours at The Review, the student newspaper at the University of Delaware, where he earned a degree in political science in 1996. A native of Dayton, Ohio, and a long-suffering fan of the Cincinnati Bengals, Fain plays guitar in a band with more possible names than polished songs.

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