Baby boomers’ prime college years are long behind them, but this generation has been racking up student debt at a pace never seen in decades.

According to data from Business Insider, boomers accounted for nearly one-quarter of the combined student debt load in 2020—more than double their share at the turn of this century.

While 90% of boomers have escaped the student loan trap, those still in debt hold some of the highest balances compared to other generations.

According to the Education Initiative, the average baby boomer student loan balance was over $40,000 as of 2020, which is a third more than what boomers owed in 2019.

That’s all thanks to Parents PLUS Loans—a type of federal student loan that allows boomers to sign on the dotted line on behalf of their kids, inheriting the debt in the interim.

Christopher William, founder of Balanced News Summary, is one of them, with a student loan debt of $50,000 that he took on for his kids.

“The challenge that I and many other Baby Boomers face is that our student loan debt will be around for years to come, even into retirement,” he told GOBankingRates.

So, while it might seem like boomers got the better deal because they enjoyed cheaper education costs in the 1970s, many of them got the short end of the stick because they ended up funding their children’s or grandchildren’s education.

Although boomers may be the wealthiest generation, not everyone is sailing off into their golden years.

More boomers are delaying retirement

A pre-pandemic study by the TransAmerica Center for Retirement Studies found that 54% of baby boomers expect to work past 65 or don’t plan to retire at all.

According to the study, several “financial priorities” are keeping boomers from fully retiring. Debt is the biggest one.

“The most frequently cited current financial priority is paying off debt (64%) which includes credit card, mortgage, other consumer debt, and/or student loans,” the study revealed.

The work-past-retirement trend appears to have accelerated after the pandemic, with almost 20% of Americans age 65 and older employed in 2023, according to Pew Research Center. That’s double the share who were working in the 1990s.

While boomers are generally known for their flush 401(k)s and multiple properties, they’re also among the most indebted generations in America. According to Credit Karma, the average boomer carries a debt load of $52,401. Only Gen Xers had a higher debt load at $61,036.

Although debt loads vary by generation, the one consistent theme is that all are being impacted by student loans one way or another.

Student debt crisis is everyone’s problem

Paying for higher education has been a thorn in the side of students for decades, and things have seemingly worsened for modern-day graduates.

College costs have soared of late, more than doubling the rates of the 1970s when baby boomers walked those hallowed halls.

A GoBankingRates report reveals that students back then racked up a tab of just under $40,000, adjusted for inflation, to gain a degree at a public university. By way of comparison, Gen Zers are facing a bill of over $90,000 to graduate from university.

The U.S. economy is facing a student loan crisis of epic proportions, as evidenced by $1.7 trillion in student loan debt owed and securitized, per the St. Louis Fed.

Students have had little recourse as the cost of college has soared, surpassing even the rate of inflation, as noted by Mamie Voight, president and chief executive of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, a situation exacerbated by a culture of borrowing.

As a result, young generations, including millennials and Gen Zers, are having to delay major financial milestones like homeownership, let alone wealth creation, as they wrestle with the aftermath of the debt.

Meanwhile, it’s been one step forward, two steps back for the Biden administration in its plan to approve billions of dollars in student debt relief.

After forgiving $136 billion in student loan debt, President Biden has added a Plan B, with the potential to erase student debt for up to 10 million borrowers, something the administration is feverishly trying to deliver before November.