Student Loan Debt: You Wouldn't Expect This Age Group to Have the Most

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The borrowers who carry the highest student loan burden are 30-somethings, not fresh-faced college students.

Recent research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that although the under-30 age group has the most borrowers at 14 million who owe a total of $292 billion, those who are 30 to 39 years old owe the most with a whopping $307 billion in debt.

The other age groups are not faring better with the 40 to 49 age group owing $154 billion, the 50 to 59 age bracket at $106 billion and the over-60 category currently carrying around $43 billion. All of the age brackets together, or 37 million student loan borrowers, have a total outstanding debt toward $1 trillion.

Since the peak of consumer debt in 2008, student loan debt has been the only form of consumer debt that has grown, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said. The balance of student loans have surpassed both auto loans and credit cards. Student loan debt is now the largest form of consumer debt outside of mortgages.

"Clearly, it is a big problem," said Nick Givogri, a regional director with Merrill Edge, part of Bank Of America's consumer bank unit. "People need to track their spending and savings. Everyday there are tradeoffs people have and they are learning life lessons."

The cascading impact of student loan debt can damage credit scores, resulting in consumers having difficulty in purchasing a house or qualifying for loans and having to pay higher interest rates, he said.

Outstanding student loan debt is now the second largest form of consumer debt, but about half of the $1 trillion in student loan debt isn't being repaid because borrowers are struggling financially, according to an analysis released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.