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Nearly 47,000 people have been in student loan repayment for at least 40 years, The Washington Post reported.

The finding was based on data obtained from the Education Department through a Freedom of Information Act request. About 82 percent of the nearly 47,000 are in default on their loans.

The borrowers are a fraction of the 43.5 million Americans with student debt. But many experts say they represent an indictment of the student loan system.

“This is sort of a monumental failure,” said Abby Shafroth, director of the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project. “There are so many relief programs in the student loan system to address some sort of financial distress. But it’s this real patchwork, and borrowers struggle to navigate it. The department itself and its servicers often can’t navigate it, either.”