Aging Student Debtors

As the recession descended, the number of student borrowers continued to grow — and more than ever, those carrying balances are likely to be in their 30s or older, according to new data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The New York Fed, which has become a chronicler of student loans in America through quarterly reports, recently released historical charts showing the growth in borrowers, balances and delinquencies over the past seven years. They show a steady upward march toward more borrowers, more loans and more debt.

Since 2005, 14 million more people have taken on student debt. The majority of borrowers still paying back their loans are in their 30s or older. And the average debt per borrower has steadily climbed, from $15,651 in the first quarter of 2005 to $24,301 in early 2012.

Despite the recent attention paid to recent college graduates burdened by six figures of debt and unable to find jobs, borrowers under 30 are doing better than most on paying back their loans. Only about 6 percent of them are more than 90 days late — the most serious form of delinquency — in making payments. Borrowers in their 40s, on the other hand, have a delinquency rate double that of their younger counterparts, at about 12 percent.

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