More than 3 million Americans over the age of 60 owe more than $86 billion in student debt, according to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) data reported by CBS News.
The data shows that the total has increased from $66.7 billion just two years ago, suggesting that this is also due to an uptick in seniors enrolling in college courses. Many of the seniors are now turning to their Social Security benefits to pay off their student debt.
Seraphina Galante, a 76-year-old who earned her master's degree from San Diego State University 19 years ago, told CBS News that she is still nearly $40,000 in debt two decades later.
"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."
She told the network she works as a part-time caregiving consultant and makes a monthly $176 payment that does not even 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," she told CBS.
Debt driving seniors into poverty:
"The fastest growing segment of student loan borrowers are actually older Americans," former CFPB official Seth Frotman told CBS News.
Frotman said that the federal government will seize Social Security benefits to pay off the debts.
"They will literally seize your Social Security benefit," Frotman said. "Because of student loans we are literally driving tens of thousands of older Americans into poverty."
Galante agreed, noting that “this will follow me to the grave.”
Elizabeth Warren wants to erase most student debt:
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of a couple dozen Democrats running for president, introduced a plan to cancel up to $50,000 in student 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 said in a statement, "It's time to end that experiment."
A Business Insider poll found that 57% of Americans support the plan, including 77% of Democrats.