Why Your Parents Need Help Paying Off Student Loans
November 14, 2012

They fed you; they clothed you; they tucked you in at night; and they’ve probably been planning how to get you the best education possible since you started preschool. Yes, these responsibilities and so many more lie at the heart of parenthood. That’s why with skyrocketing tuition rates, many parents don’t hesitate to lend a helping hand by taking on a significant portion of the cost of their child’s college education. That of course translates into shouldering the burden of some of their child’s hefty student loans. Unfortunately many parents are finding it even more difficult to get out from under student loans than their children are, which means indebted parents are growing in record numbers.

Growing Number of Borrowers Are 60+

According to the New York Times, one of the fastest growing groups of student loan borrowers are people over the age of 60. Interestingly, the result of tuition being at its highest yet (and still climbing) and students getting some financial help from mom and dad, is that the two groups most profoundly affected by student loan debt are at opposite ends of the spectrum: those over 60 and those under the age of 35.

It’s troubling that parents are so generously willing to help pay for their child’s education and yet parent loans are treated very differently from student loans. Parents are ineligible for most of the best available cost-friendly options when it comes to loan repayment. While student borrowers can take advantage of Income-Based Repayment and Income-Contingent Repayment plans, these things are not an option for parents, which is why so many are close to, or have fallen into default.

Why Aren’t We Doing More?

One problem is that older borrowers tend to be less active about drawing attention to the problem. Quite the opposite, in fact. While young people have taken to the streets and the Internet and social media in strenuous protest over the outrageous state of student loans in this country, the older generation has been more reserved about the problem.

Older people are much more likely to feel ashamed about their money problems, specifically about having a financial issue that’s widely perceived exclusively as a young person’s issue. On top of which, a lot of older borrowers are inclined to feel that they should have paid closer attention when taking on their child’s student loans. Where students have the excuse of youth and naiveté, parents tend to feel they should have known better. Many also believe that they should have been able to figure out a way to solve their financial problems by this point in their lives.

We Can Do Better

It’s kind of a horrifying thought that so many are making student loan payments and cashing social security checks at the same time and that so many young people are on the same path. It really seems like as a society we can do better. Many guilt-ridden students want very much to help parents who are struggling to repay student loans, but can’t afford to because of their own student debt burdens. Only by getting your own debt managed can you experience the financial freedom that allows you to assist someone else. Students shouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of organizations equipped to help them manage their student debt.