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(WGHP) — How important to North Carolinians is today’s move by President Joe Biden to delay repayment of federal student loans until May 1?

Well, state residents owe about $48 billion in loans, based on data developed by the Education Data Initiative. That is significantly higher than the national average of $35.5 billion for each state and the District of Columbia.

There are 1.27 million residents of North Carolina who owe for their student loans, which represents an average debt of $37,861.

By comparison, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida all have higher averages, but California’s is lower.

Nationally the averages range from $29,446 in North Dakota to $55,077 in the District of Columbia, where about 1 in 6 residents has student debt.

The average student loan debt per borrower across the country. (

The deadline to renew repayment had been Jan. 31, but in a statement released by the White House, President Biden said that “millions of student loan borrowers are still coping with the impacts of the pandemic and need some more time before resuming payments.”

Among North Carolinians, 12.1% of the state’s residents owe student loans, Education Data found, and 53% of those are 35 or younger.

About 13% of those who owe have bills for $5,000 or less, but 2.1% owe more than 200,000. About 1 in 4 (23%) have debt between $20,000 and $40,000.

State legislation

What to do about this debt is not a new discussion and not one that typically has a bipartisan solution.

Earlier this year the North Carolina General Assembly considered a bill it called a “Student Loan Bill of Rights.”

The bill, which has had bipartisan report, would crack down on the practices of lenders, which sometimes can be heavy-handed.

State Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford County) was one of its primary sponsors, and the bill in July advanced to the House Banking Committee but has not moved beyond.

Not always popular

Student loan forgiveness had been part of the Build Back Better legislation, but it was dropped in negotiations before the bill passed the U.S. House. That bill has languished in the U.S. Senate.

U.S. Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) is one of four members of the House – along with Reps. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) – who earlier this year signed a letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to oppose Biden’s efforts to forgive student loan.

The letter in part said that “mass cancellation of student loan debt would not only be a clear violation of the separation of powers but would also be an affront to the millions of borrowers who responsibly repaid their loan balances.”

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-Denver), ranking member of House Committee on Financial Services whose district includes a large swathe of the Piedmont Triad, also has blamed Democrats’ efforts to change lending practices.