Student loan interest rates are soaring, while students across the country are struggling with a lack of job training and financial stability.
A new report from the Government Accountability Office finds student debt is growing faster than the economy, while many are unable to pay the interest on their loans.
It says about 4 million Americans are now on student loans and another 3.5 million have a balance of less than $100,000.
“Many Americans are struggling financially and unable to save enough money to cover their monthly loan payments,” the GAO says in its report.
“These Americans are left with increasingly complex repayment plans and little flexibility in the repayment schedule.”
The report says more than 2.2 million Americans have student loan debt, more than double the number of years ago.
The GAO said there are many reasons for the higher loan payments, including stagnant wages and rising tuition.
“The increase in student loan balances has been driven by the combination of rising student loan default rates and an overhang of outstanding student loan payments relative to income,” the report says.
“These high loan balances have also increased the likelihood that students will default on their debts, leading to higher default rates.”
The GAOs study found that student loan defaults increased by 9.7 percent between 2008 and 2014.
In 2016, that jumped to 14.5 percent.
More:Federal debt rose by $5.3 trillion in 2016, according to a study from the American Enterprise Institute.
The average annual debt for graduates of a four-year public university in the U.S. is $24,600, according the UW News data.
In addition, the average annual cost of tuition at public universities in the country is $11,700.
The report notes that many states are taking action to increase student loan interest caps and repayment options, but some are still lagging.
The Senate is considering a proposal to cap student loan forgiveness at a rate of 6.25 percent.
In states like Ohio, where the average forgiven student loan balance was $6,000, the GAOs report found that only 3.2 percent of the students in Ohio had forgiven their student loans in 2016.
In Texas, which has the nation’s largest percentage of graduates with student loans, the percentage of borrowers who had forgiven was only 6.4 percent, the report said.
But in New York state, which also has a higher percentage of students with student loan debts, the number is only about 6.3 percent.
“This data suggests that there is a lot of slack in the system that has led to the rising amount of student debt,” GAO Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez said in a statement.
“As more students have a debt burden of their own, it’s important that we continue to work to address this problem, and we need to do so with policies that will provide borrowers with the certainty they need to get their debt forgiven.”
Read the full report:The GAOS report comes after several states, including Maryland and Illinois, have proposed reducing the amount of interest the federal government pays on student debt.
The bill is backed by some students’ advocates, but opponents say it would force students to pay more in interest.
The House of Representatives is expected to consider the bill when it returns from a recess in January.