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Poll: Student Loan Debt A Crushing Burden For Many Maine Families

Student loan debt is leaving borrowers in Maine in financial distress, with many putting off basic needs due to student loan payments. That's according to the results of a new poll from the Maine Center for Economic Policy.The survey polled 400 borrowers from across Maine, mostly online. Of those who responded, more than 40 percent said they delayed major purchases, like a home or car, because of student debt. Nearly a third said they've been "unable to buy basic necessities like food or clothing."

"And all of that is dragging back the benefits that a higher education degree should be providing to those Mainers and to Maine's economy," says Mario Moretto, the Center's communication's director.

The survey also found that many borrowers had issues with student loan providers. Nearly 30 percent of the borrowers surveyed said those problems led them to default on their loans. 

"A lot of politicians are talking right now about doing something to address student debt. And we think putting some guardrails, and accountability, around student loan servicing companies has to be a part of that solution," Moretto says.

Last year, Maine borrowers averaged more than $31,000 in student loan debt. That was the 10th-highest ranking in the country.

State legislators have recently proposed several bills tackling the issue, including a $50 million student loan debt relief bond pushed by Gov. Paul LePage that died in the Maine Legislature earlier this year. 

Gov.-Elect Janet Mills said during her campaign that she wants to explore several student loan forgiveness policies in the next administration.