A recent survey shows that middle age consumers are being disproportionately affected by student loan debt. According to Reuters, the average amount of student loan debt has gone up 47% for people who are between the ages of 35 and 49, which is the highest amount of any other age group.

One reason for this increase is because more middle age students are heading back to college after finding themselves out of a job. Many of them had not previously planned on pursuing higher education, which meant that they turned to student loans to help them fund their endeavors. Even so, a number of people in this age group have found themselves borrowing student loans on behalf of their children in order to keep up with the ever-rising cost of tuition.

To make matters worse, more and more college students are finding that their educational efforts have still left them unable to find a job. As a result, middle age borrowers could easily be forced to tap into their retirement accounts in order to help them pay back student loan debt, thereby creating another hardship for themselves later down the road. Middle age consumers also have less time to work, and will be required to spend most of that time paying back their student loans, making it difficult for them to save any more money towards retirement.

Consumers over 35 need to be especially cautious when taking on student loans. Bankruptcy can sometimes be needed in order to wipe out other debt so that student loan payments are affordable.