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Education Debt Held by Older Americans

November 16, 2017
 
 

Recently released federal data show that 17 percent of federal student debt holders are over the age of 50. This group of older borrowers collectively hold $247 billion in student debt, an amount that has roughly tripled since 2003.

Likewise, a 2016 report from the U.S. Government Accountability provoked alarm for showing that the federal government is withholding a portion of Social Security benefits from a growing number of older Americans to cover defaulted student loan debt.

Amid this context, the Urban Institute on Thursday released an analysis of federal survey data on older student debt holders. The group found that 3.5 percent of Americans over 50 hold student debt for their own education, compared to roughly 8 percent with debt for their children or grandchildren. 

Older borrowers with debt from their education tend to have more precarious finances, the report found. For example, 55 percent of this group reported struggles with money compared to 33 percent of those with student debt for their children. In addition, black adults over age 50 are roughly three times as likely to hold education debt for themselves as are their white peers.

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