Over 2 million Americans past the age of 60 carry an average of $19,000 in student loan debt, according to the New York Federal Reserve. Many thousands carry debts of six-figures. The total senior student loan debt is more than $30 billion. And delinquency rates among older borrowers–just as in the case of their younger counterparts–have doubled in a decade, the NY Fed says.
For seniors especially, the likelihood of repayment seems remote. Most in the group are past their peak earning years–and many spent those years in graduate school trying to pivot from careers that had dead-ended. Often the pivots are unsuccessful and the new degrees commercially worthless. While younger debtors are hounded by collection agencies, the government has turned to garnishing Social Security to make good on the debt obligations of the seniors. Very often the seniors, having failed to resuscitate their careers, are entirely reliant on Social Security for living expenses. It’s all widely reported. Chronicle.com does an excellent job of telling a few of their stories. But answers are hard to find. People did really borrow the money and now they owe it. They don’t have it. Blood from a stone, you know. Can’t get it.