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College debt delaying Americans’ golden years

University Business, June 2018
Taking on more loan debt with age.
Taking on more loan debt with age.

Younger Americans postpone marriages, and put off having children and buying their first home while repaying student loans.

And new federal data shows the burden now spreading to their parents: Americans age 50 years and older saw their federal student loan debt grow by $18 billion between the second quarter of fiscal year 2017 and the first quarter of 2018.

This ballooning debt can delay retirement, and Social Security benefits can be rescinded from those who default on loans.

More and more, older Americans are taking on student debt as they train for new careers, says Suzanne Martindale, senior attorney with the Consumers Union, a nonprofit focused on consumer advocacy. These loans often accompany education borrowing for children and grandchildren.

“It’s important for schools to educate students and their families at every point where an award package is offered, to make sure people know their options,” says Martindale.

Financial aid staff should break down the difference between federal and private loans, what jobs may qualify borrowers for loan forgiveness, and laws around federal loan repayment.

Community colleges can make a big impact on debt, says Martindale. They should promote their lower tuition, as well as the faster track back to the workforce through two-year certificate programs and technical training.