As a result of compound interest, her debt has risen to $126,000. With her $526 monthly payment, at an 8.25 percent rate, she estimates that she "will be 81" by the time it is paid, and will have laid out $87,487 more than she originally borrowed.
Mrs. Dupree, in a telephone interview, said she, too, needed some relief. As a part-time substance abuse counselor for a nonprofit based in Ocala, she said she could barely afford the $50 each month that she negotiated with the federal government as payment for her growing debt.
She is supporting a measure introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, and a committee member, that would allow people who borrowed money for education before July 2013 to refinance at current, lower interest rates.
A person who took out an unsubsidized loan before July of last year "is locked into an interest rate of nearly 7 percent and older loans run 8 percent to 9 percent and even higher," Ms. Warren said. The measure would lower the interest rate to 3.86 percent for undergraduate loans and a little higher for graduate and parent loans.
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But the future of the bill is unclear. It was stalled in the Senate in June by Republican senators, like Lamar Alexander, of Tennessee, who said college students didn't need a taxpayer subsidy to help pay off a student loan. "They need a good job."
The measure would help 25 million people refinance their student loans, but impose a tax increase on people making over $1 million — which Senator Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, the majority leader, labeled a "tax increase bill styled as a student loan bill."
Matt Kibbe, president and chief executive of the conservative organization FreedomWorks, urged its members to tell lawmakers to oppose the legislation on grounds that "allowing students to artificially refinance their loans into artificially low-interest federal loans will only encourage future generations to continue to accumulate mountains of debt larger than they can afford.
"Instead, the federal government should get out of student loans altogether and allow markets to send proper signals as to who can actually afford these loans."
Even though the number of retiree debtors is small, $1,000 deducted from their Social Security payments "can make a real difference for affected senior citizens or disabled adults surviving on Social Security," said Sandy Baum, a professor at the George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development, and a researcher at the Urban Institute.
For most beneficiaries, she said, "the average monthly payment of $1,200 is the primary source of income." While the government should be holding student borrowers to account for their debt, "and there may be some who just decide not to pay," she said "most are people who are not earning money so it doesn't make sense to ask them to pay."
As the ranks of retirees grow, more attention is being focused on the education debt incurred by the next group of people approaching retirement, those 50 to 64 years old. A 2013 AARP study of middle-class families found that aging households were carrying increasing amounts of debt.
While mortgages account for most of that debt, education debt levels have been rising for the preretiree group, noted Lori A. Trawinski, a director at the AARP Public Policy Institute.
"As of 2010, 11 percent of preretiree families had education debt with an average balance of $28,000. Growing debt burdens pose a threat to financial security of Americans approaching retirement, since increasing debt threatens their ability to save for retirement or to accumulate other assets, and may end up leading them to delay retirement," she said.
The Government Accountability Office warned this week about the growth of educational debt among seniors. It released a report that relied on different data from that used by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, but nonetheless painted an ominous picture of lingering debt burden.
"As the baby boomers continue to move into retirement, the number of older Americans with defaulted loans will only continue to increase," Charles A. Jeszeck, the G.A.O. director of education, work force and income security, testified at the hearing. "This creates the potential for an unpleasant surprises for some, as their benefits are offset and they face the possibility of a less secure retirement."
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More than 80 percent of the outstanding balances are from seniors who financed their own education, the G.A.O. report concluded, and only 18 percent were attributed to loans used to finance the studies of a spouse, child or grandchild.