3 million senior citizens in the US are still paying off their student loans

Seraphina Galante CBS News

It’s not just young people paying off college debt – senior citizens say they’re still paying off student loans they took out for school decades ago.

More than 3 million Americans aged 60 and older currently owe more than $US86 billion in unpaid student loans, according to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) data seen by CBS News. Recent data available online from 2017 showed the number was $US66.7 billion two years ago.

Many older Americans are now reportedly turning to their Social Security benefits to pay student debt.

Seraphina Galante, a 76-year-old who received her master’s degree from San Diego State University 19 years ago, told CBS News that she still owes nearly $US40,000.

“I was very confident that … I would pay it back, you know, in due time,” Galante said. “We grow older and then we get more senior. That’s reality of life.”

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Galante works part-time as a caregiving consultant and makes a $US176 student loan payment monthly. The payment does not cover the interest on the loan.

“I don’t see the justice or even the logic. It’s not gonna reduce, ever. And the emotional part of it that it’s there. That it’s always gonna be there,” Galante told CBS News.

Seth Frotman, a student debt expert, told CBS News that the government will seize Social Security benefits to pay loans, something that is “driving tens of thousands of older Americans into poverty.”

Student debt has been at the forefront of 2020 presidential campaigns, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren proposing cancelling up to $US50,000 in student-loan debt for 42 million Americans last month.

“We got into this crisis because state governments and the federal government decided that …  they’d rather cut taxes for billionaires and giant corporations and offload the cost of higher education onto students and their families,” Warren wrote in a blog post last month, adding, “It’s time to end that experiment.”

A new INSIDER poll released Friday found that a big majority – 77% – of likely Democratic primary voters support Warren’s plan, and 36% said they strongly support it. Overall, 57% of Americans polled said they at least somewhat support Warren’s plan, while 21% at least somewhat oppose it.