Here's a puzzle of modern finance: during a period when borrowing costs are at rock-bottom levels and tens of millions of borrowers have refinanced their mortgages, it remains impossible for many gainfully employed Americans to refinance their student loan debt.

As debt burdens have spiked — the latest government estimate of total outstanding student loans is $1.2 trillion, up from $1 trillion less than two years earlier — one might expect lenders to be tripping over each other in a rush to peddle more affordable student loans.

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