Parents Are Taking On More Student Debt, Too

I guess it’s “student debt discussion week” at The Billfold, because I have one more student debt story to share with you.

Yesterday, The New York Times published “The New Toll of Student Debt in 3 Charts,” and although you’ll have to click through to see the actual charts, here’s the summary:

The average student’s debt load is leveling off, a new analysis of federal loan data shows. That’s not true for many parents.

We don’t always consider the effect student debt has on a student’s parents — in part because most of the conversations about student loans are being led by students. We hear “I’m going to be paying off my student debt until I’m 65” a lot more often than “I’m going to be paying off my kid’s education until I’m 90.”

But, as you might remember from M. H. Miller’s essay at The Baffler, student debt does affect parents. Even after declaring bankruptcy, Miller’s parents were still making payments on the loans they took out for their son’s education.

And, as the NYT notes, those payments are going up:

[…] parents’ average debt load at graduation for federal PLUS loans rose 14 percent, or $4,090, to $33,291 in 2015-16 from 2011-12.

Why are parent payments going up when student payments aren’t? Because students are already borrowing the maximum available to them through the Stafford loan program, and parents are making up the difference. Interestingly, the number of parents electing to take out loans for their children’s education is decreasing — but the ones who pick up debt are taking on more of it.

So. You know what I’m going to suggest you do. Visit the NYT, take a look at the charts, and let us know what you think. Or, if you feel comfortable sharing, we could discuss how much debt your parents took on for your education — and whether you plan to take on debt for your children’s college expenses.


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