Silent Suffering: Parent College Debt

Federal data shows that record numbers of students are in financial trouble due to student loan debt. What many people do not realize, however, is that there are also millions of parents who are in as much distress or more due to loans they have taken to fund their children’s educations. It is not simply a case of parents taking on more debt than they can manage. Many of these adult borrowers were doing quite well in life and felt comfortable taking on the loans. Since then, they have had health problems, lost jobs, or are suffering the effects of the recession and can no longer afford the payments.

The Scope of the Problem

Angry college students and recent grads across the country have started protesting their student loan debt and poor job prospects, bringing increased attention to their plight. Adult borrowers, on the other hand, are often too ashamed to speak out because they feel that they have somehow failed in their duties as parents.

This silence has kept the fact hidden that 2.2 million student loan borrowers are over the age of 60 and around 10% of these borrowers were more than 90 days delinquent on payments during the first part of this year. Many of these parents are losing part of their Social Security benefits because of the unpaid debt. To add to this problem, many colleges and universities encourage parents to take PLUS loans, not making the parents aware that income-based repayment is available only to student borrowers.

The Bleak Outlook

Many parents who have good credit have borrowed through private student loans, or have co-signed for children. These loans have little to no flexibility in terms of repayment. This is devastating to families who are struggling in the weak economy because these older citizens have little opportunity and less time to get their finances straight and to become financially stable once again. As such, a large part of the older generation is facing a bleak retirement, bankruptcy, and loss of their homes and other assets.

Parents are simply another class of people who are suffering due to the soaring costs of tuition and reduced financial aid. After all, every parent wants to offer children the best start in life and that means helping with a college education. The only answer to this dilemma seems to be that college costs have to be gotten under control.


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