Did you think you’d finish paying off student loans before age 40?

Melody Ng
Analyst
Public Insight Network
Don Funke

Don Funke
(Photo shared by Don Funke)

“My children (one now in college and one on the way) know that my wife and I will not be helping them financially, and they will not be taking loans.

If they have to work for 10 years through college, that is better than being in debt for years to come.”

That’s how Bozeman, Mont., chiropractor Don Funke responded when we asked him and other sources in the Public Insight Network this week for their experience with student loans. Funke, who treats humans and horses, turns 50 this month, and has just $9,000 left to pay off from the $88,000 he originally borrowed for his chiropractic training.

He is one of 12.5 million Americans age 40 and older who are still paying down school debt. If you are, too, we want to hear your story.

When we talk about student loans, we usually think about young people — college grads and 20-somethings struggling to make their payments. But of the $900-plus billion in student loan debt in the U.S., more than a third is held by people over age 40, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Play with the bank’s interactive charts yourself and you’ll see that these older Americans are struggling to pay down school debt — much more so than 20-somethings.

Borrowers are having a harder time paying back student loans than in 2005. Borrowers age 40-49 are the most delinquent, with 11.9 percent of their loans sitting unpaid for more than 90 days.  (Federal Reserve Bank of New York)

Borrowers now are having a harder time paying back student loans than they were in 2005. Borrowers age 40-49 are the most delinquent, with 11.9 percent of their loans sitting unpaid for more than 90 days.  (Graphic via Federal Reserve Bank of New York)

For example, nearly 12 percent of education loans to people in their 40s are more than 90 days delinquent. This is compared to 6.2 percent delinquency for borrowers under age 30.

Moreover, while borrowers younger than 30 owe, on average, $20,835 in school debt, the average borrower in his or her 40s owes $27,103. Amazingly, borrowers over age 60 still owe an average of $19,225!

So we want to know: Did you borrow money for school? How much do you still owe? How have changes in your life situation over the years made repaying these loans easier or more difficult?

Share your personal experience with reporter Samara Freemark here. You’ll inform her reporting on a part of the student loan debt crisis that gets little attention, and she may contact you for more information.

Feel free to contact her directly at sfreemark@americanpublicmedia.org or 651-290-1289 with any questions.

>> Did you think you’d pay off student loans before age 40?

 

 

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Melody Ng Analyst
Public Insight Network

As a Public Insight analyst, Melody Ng's job is all about finding out what people know, and then putting their experience and expertise to work making great news stories. She's particularly interested in getting diverse perspectives and voices into the news. So if you don’t hear people who think or sound like you in the news, then: Tell us what you know here. And come on into our newsroom!

Melody got into journalism through an internship with documentary unit American RadioWorks when looking for a different way to use the skills she had learned through doing science.