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Oklahoma's 1st Congressional District candidates have large student loan debts

Oklahoma's 1st Congressional District candidates, Republican Jim Bridenstine and Democrat John Olson, each owe the U.S. Department of Education more than $100,000 for their graduate school work.
by Chris Casteel Published: October 1, 2012
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He now runs his own human resources consulting company. Olson and his wife reported combined income of about $111,000 on their 2011 tax return.

Citing figures regarding the increased incomes that accompany bachelor's and graduate degrees, Olson said pursuing higher education is “an investment in yourself. You are going to get a return on your investment.”

Backed by the Tea Party, Bridenstine scored an upset victory over incumbent Rep. John Sullivan in the Republican primary in June. Bridenstine was not available to discuss his student loan debt in the latter three days of last week, said his campaign manager, Gabe Sherman.

“The principal amount of Jim's student loan is a private matter known by Jim and his wife,” Sherman said. “They would prefer not to share that information. He makes payments on his loan and has never missed a payment.”

Bridenstine, a pilot in the U.S. Navy Reserve, received his Master of Business Administration degree from Cornell University. He reported on his financial disclosure form that his loan was for graduate school. Sherman said Bridenstine, who got his undergraduate degree at Rice University, did not use the G.I. bill to cover any of his education costs.

On the financial disclosure form filed earlier this year, Bridenstine listed 2011 income of nearly $36,000. Sherman said Bridenstine also earned roughly $42,000 in military pay that is exempted from disclosure on the forms.

A seat in the U.S. House would give the winner of the 1st District race a salary of $174,000. However, members of Congress can't participate in a program that allows some congressional staff members to receive help paying student loans.

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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