When you think of student loan debt, the image that comes to mind is someone 25-30. They have their whole life ahead of them. We sort of shrug off the student loan debt problem until we see the consequences of it firsthand. Yet, it’s not just a problem for younger generations. It’s also plaguing senior citizens in their 60s and 70s.
Of the 44 million Americans struggling to pay back student loans, about 3 million of them are 60 and older. They still hold as much as $86 billion towards the $1.53 trillion that’s owed. This data was made public by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Just two years ago, that number was significantly smaller (but still large) at $66.7 billion.
That goes to show that the population ages, there will be many people who hit retirement age still unable to pay off their debt. They carry it with them throughout their lives and it’s a devastating burden. Because they have no choice but to pay it off, many seniors are using their Social Security payments to keep up. That should never happen in this country!
Older Americans Going to College
A lot of the student loan debt isn’t so new. It’s not unheard of for someone in their 40s and 50s to decide to get a degree. They don’t realize the burden they’re putting themselves under by doing so. The debt problem wasn’t as pronounced back when they were younger and probably expected to be able to take care of it. They thought wrong.
One such person is Seraphina Galante. She’s a 76-year-old woman who still owes $40,000 in student loans. She decided nearly twenty years ago that she would go back to school to get her master’s degree. She didn’t think she’d have any problem, with a master’s, paying back any of the student loan debt. She was wrong.
“I was very confident that … I would pay it back, you know, in due time,” Galante said. “We grow older and then we get more senior. That’s reality of life. I don’t see the justice or even the logic. It’s not gonna reduce, ever. And the emotional part of it that it’s there. That it’s always gonna be there,” Galante said.
Just a few years from 80, Galante is forced to work. She helps out as a caregiver consultant, only able to work part-time. She has no choice but to make the $176 per month payment she doesn’t believe will ever get paid off. That’s because the government will definitely seize Social Security benefits to pay off student loan debt. It’s driving older Americans into poverty.
Student Loan Debt a Campaign Issue
Student loan debt is becoming such a major problem that it’s on the radar for many 2020 Democratic candidates. One clear example is Elizabeth Warren who wants to cancel up to $50,000 worth of debt for millions of Americans. She knows this will help them get on track with their lives and not live in fear of missing a payment.
“We got into this crisis because state governments and the federal government decided that … they’d rather cut taxes for billionaires and giant corporations and offload the cost of higher education onto students and their families,” Warren wrote in a blog post last month, adding, “It’s time to end that experiment.”
77% of likely Democrat voters said they were in support of Warren’s plan. 57% of all Americans do as well, according to a poll from INSIDER. 21% are in opposition to it, as that cancelation would mean the government is out that money, wasting over a trillion dollars’ worth of taxpayer funds.