Urgency Grows in Managing Student Loan Debt for Older Americans / Public News Service
North Dakota has some of the lowest student loan debt ratios in the United States, but as in all states, payments are a growing burden for older people, not just younger populations.
Borrowers are advised to watch for an upcoming date: May 1, when the federal government may lift the student loan repayment moratorium. It remains unclear if the two-year freeze will be extended.
Stacie Iken, a resident of Bismarck, is among the borrowers drawing attention to the loans they repay after the age of 50. In the past, she never imagined that her own education costs would intersect with planning for retirement.
“It was interesting for me to say, ‘Well, that would be, you know, X dollars that I wouldn’t invest in a smaller house or some sort of retirement fund,’ but to take care of the bills. existing ones,” explained Iken.
Iken is still paying off college loans after a mid-career change and is a co-signer on college loans for her two children.
No matter when the moratorium is lifted, groups like AARP are urging those in similar situations to explore refund and forgiveness options.
Borrowers 50 and older now account for about 20% of the country’s student loan debt. Iken stressed that the thought of taking out expensive loans well into young adulthood shouldn’t stop peers from considering their options.
“I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from considering graduate school,” Iken stressed. “I would consider encouraging them to look at any alternatives they might have. Does that work for a grant program? Anything that would help offset the cost up front.”
Marnie Piehl, assistant director of communications for AARP in North Dakota, said that while student loan repayments are often stuck at certain amounts, the trend coincides with other forms of financial stress, such as rising prescription drug costs.
She noted that planning multiple payments is something her family is sorting out and will likely be a complex maze for many other households in the years to come.
“You know, people want to make sure their kids get all the educational opportunities they deserve,” Piehl observed. “And calculate the debt they have of their own education.”
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