'I Fully Expect to Die With This Debt'

Baby boomers who went back for graduate degrees struggle to pay back their student loans

'I Fully Expect to Die With This Debt' 1

Bryan Thomas for The Chronicle

Joan Roberts, 63, who holds two master's degrees, spent eight years in a Ph.D. program at Columbia U. but did not receive a doctorate. She has since defaulted on more than $190,000 in federal and private loans.

Student-loan debt is not just a problem for young, recent college graduates searching for their first jobs. Growing numbers of adults nearing the ends of their careers are accumulating such big debt, too, and they don't have a lifetime to pay it back.

In fact, student-loan debt is growing fastest among adults ages 60 and older, with more than two million people in that age group now owing an average of $19,000, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Their default rates are