A nationwide look at how student debt impacts older adults

In January 2017, we released a snapshot on older Americans and student loan debt . We are now providing additional data regarding the scope and growth of student debt among older borrowers (ages 60 and older) in each of the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. These new data further demonstrate the significant growth of student debt among the older population in each state, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, and the proportion of older borrowers struggling to make their payments. 

The state-level data show the changes between 2012 and 2017 in the number of older borrowers, the median amount owed, and the proportion and number of older borrowers in delinquency. Here are some particularly noteworthy findings.

  • The number of older borrowers increased by at least 20 percent in every state, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and the number of older borrowers increased by 46 percent or more in half of all states.
  • In more than three-quarters of states, the median student loan balance of older borrowers increased by more than $1,000, and the total outstanding student debt held by borrowers over age 60 increased by more than 50 percent. 
  • In all but five states, the proportion of older borrowers in delinquency increased. 

These new data on older borrowers reinforce our recommendations from January and a continued cause for concern as an increasing number of older adults are asked to shoulder student debt. Consumer complaints show that older borrowers who are repaying loans for their own education, co-signing loans for someone else’s education, or borrowing on their children’s behalf, may struggle to repay these loans while living on fixed incomes during retirement.   

Check out our tips to help older student loan borrowers navigate problems with their student loans. If you are having problems with your student loans, visit our Repay Student Debt tool. This interactive resource offers a step-by-step guide to show borrowers their repayment options, especially when facing default. Student loan borrowers experiencing problems related to repaying student loans or debt collection can also submit a complaint to the CFPB.

You can find more information on our students and older adults pages.

Stacy Canan is the Assistant Director of the CFPB’s Office for Older Americans. To learn more about our work on behalf of older consumers, visit consumerfinance.gov/older-americans.

Seth Frotman is the CFPB’s Student Loan Ombudsman. To learn more about our work for students and young consumers, visit consumerfinance.gov/students.

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