One generation of Americans owed $86 billion in student loan debt at last count. Its members are all 60 years old or more.
Many of these seniors took out loans to help pay for their children’s college tuition and are still paying them off. Others took out student loans for themselves in the wake of the last recession, as they went back to school to boost their own employment prospects.
On average, student loan borrowers in their 60s owed $33,800 in 2017, up 44% from 2010, according to data compiled for The Wall Street Journal by credit-reporting firm TransUnion. Total student loan debt rose 161% for people aged 60 and older from 2010 to 2017—the biggest increase for any age group, according to the latest data available from TransUnion.
Some are having funds garnished from their Social Security checks. The federal government, which is the largest student loan lender in the country, garnished the Social Security benefits, tax refunds or other federal payments of more than 40,000 people aged 65 and older in fiscal year 2015 because they defaulted on student or parent loan debt. That’s up 362% from a decade prior, according to the latest data from the Government Accountability Office.
At 66, Ante Grgas-Cice owes about $29,000 in student loans. His only income is a roughly $1,600 monthly Social Security check, which the federal government garnished for a period last year because he wasn’t paying his student loans.