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Hearing to Spotlight Impact of Student Loan Debt on Seniors

GAO set to release report showing student loan debt among older Americans is on the rise

–A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report set to be released on Wednesday says that student loan debt is on the rise among seniors.  

The report, which will be unveiled at a U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing, found that the amount senior citizens owe in outstanding federal student loans has increased six-fold, from $2.8 billion in 2005 to more than $18 billion last year.  While older Americans still account for a small fraction of student loan debt holders, the report noted that the number of seniors facing student loan debt between 2004 and 2010 quadrupled to 706,000 households.  Roughly 80 percent of the student loan debt held by retirement-aged Americans was for their own education, while only 20 percent of loans were taken out went to help finance a child or dependent’s education, the report said. 

“Some may think of student loan debt as just a young person’s problem,” said Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Bill Nelson (D-FL).  “Well, as it turns out, that’s increasingly not the case.”

Aging with student debt has real consequences for those in or near retirement.  The need to juggle debt on a fixed income may increase the likelihood of student loan default.  In 2013, the U.S. Department of the Treasury garnished the Social Security retirement and survivor benefits of 33,000 people to recoup federal student loan debt.  When the government garnishes a Social Security check, multiple agencies can levy fees in addition to the amount collected for the debt, making it even more challenging for seniors to pay off their loan.  

The hearing, which will examine the growing impact student loan debts are having on seniors, will take place at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday in Room 562 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.   In addition to hearing from the GAO on the report’s findings, lawmakers will also take testimony from 57-year-old Rosemary Anderson from California who faces more than $120,000 in outstanding student loan debt and the U.S. Department of Education’s chief business officer for federal student aid. 


HEARING: Indebted for Life: Older Americans and Student Loan Debt

2:15 p.m. Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 562



Rosemary Anderson, Older American with Student Loan Debt 

Charles Jeszeck, Director, Education Workforce and Income Security, U.S. Government Accountability Office 

William Leith, Chief Business Officer for Federal Student Aid, U.S. Department of Education