Nothing in America is certain except for debt and taxes. And one increasingly challenging category of the former is student loan debt. Americans owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loans. And more than ten million Americans are in deferment, forbearance or default.

But it’s not just 22-year-olds fresh out of undergrad who find themselves owing. People over 60 are rapidly accumulating student loan debt, whether it’s for continuing education or — more often — taking out loans for a child or grandchild.

Last year, the AARP reported “the number of student loan borrowers age 60 and older jumped by at least 20 percent in every state, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico from 2012 to this year. In fact, in more than 75 percent of states, total outstanding student loan-related debt held by these older borrowers had increased by at least 50 percent. And in all but five states, student loan delinquencies for the age group had also risen.”

How sustainable is this life cycle of debt? And what would it take to give Americans a few debt-free years?


  • Lori Trawinski Director of banking and finance, AARP Public Policy Institute; certified financial planner; @loritrawinski
  • Robert Kelchen Assistant professor, higher education, Seton Hall University; author, "Higher Education Accountability"; @rkelchen

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