Skip to main content

Search form

Student Loan Debt Harms Older Consumers

Thursday, January 5, 2017
Whitney Barkley-Denney
Robin Howarth

Research released earlier today by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) finds that a growing number of consumers aged 60 or older are struggling financially to repay student loans. The majority of these loans were either co-signed or borrowed on behalf of younger family members. From 2005 to 2015, the number of senior citizens affected quadrupled from 700,000 to 2.8 million. The average debt owed by older borrowers also doubled during this time period from $12,000 to $23,500. 

Since 2015, nearly 40 percent of older federal student loan borrowers aged 65 or older were in default. In the worst circumstances, these consumers are foregoing their own regular medical care or partially forfeiting federal benefits such as Social Security to repay student loans.

In reaction to these findings, the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) made the following statements:

"America's older consumers do not deserve to have their proverbial 'golden years' tarnished by heavy student debt or have their Social Security benefits reduced for trying to help a younger family member get a college education," said Robin Howarth, a senior researcher with CRL. "No one's parents or grandparents should be financially forced to forego health care services and/or medicine to repay a loan that was eligible for modification. As a nation and as a people, we can and should do better."

"In many cases, these growing numbers of senior student defaults could be avoided if loan servicers provided better assistance and response to financially challenged consumers," added Whitney Barkley-Denney, a CRL specialist in student lending and state policy counsel. "Student loan income-based repayments or loan modifications should be available to consumers of all ages. It should be the duty of loan servicers to provide timely and clear information on the options available."

Additional information and research on student loans is available on CRL's website at:

For more information, or to arrange an interview with a CRL spokesperson on this issue, please contact Charlene Crowell at