By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Washington-based non-profit advocacy group says while the economy is improving, student loan borrowers are struggling. The Consumer Federation of America says many are digging themselves into a deeper financial hole.

CFA researcher Rohit Chopra, who looked at government data, says 3,000 borrowers are defaulting every day. For most federal student loans, a default is declared when a payment is not made in nine months. Chopra says the average amount owed – more than $30,000 – is up 17% since 2013.

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Patricia Hasson, president and executive director of Clarifi, a Philadelphia based non-profit that helps folks navigate federal loan repayment options, says there are dire financial consequences.

“It’s very difficult to file for bankruptcy,” Hasson said.

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She says borrowers can see their wages, even their tax refunds garnished, and see roadblocks in passing employee verification checks.

“It may lead to difficulties down the road when you look for employment,” Hasson said.

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Last year alone, 1.1. million borrowers entered default, and Chopra says most of them could have been prevented. Advocacy groups complain that the student loan industry makes it difficult for borrowers to enroll in programs that allow them to pay off their loans as a percentage of their income.