Many parents remain under the burden of student loans, even as their kids take on debt for their own education, making student loans a multigenerational burden for many U.S. families. The New York Federal Reserve reports that student loans represent the only consumer debt that has grown since consumer debt peaked in 2008, and they are the largest form of consumer debt outside of home loans.
Fifty-one-year-old Charlene Rose is still paying off student loans for a master's degree, while her three college-age kids all have student loans of their own. The four of them owe a total of $136,000. Americans aged 50 to 59 owed $112 billion in student loan debt at the end of 2012, up from $34 billion in 2005, according to the New York Fed. Critics say student loan debt is out of hand -- especially when it cannot be wiped away in bankruptcy -- but defenders say that debts are worthwhile as long as borrowers are responsible about how much they take on.