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Parents drowning in children's college debt

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Jean Andes and her husband Mark Hilliard had the best of intentions when it came to saving for their kids' college, however "it's hard to save when you're paying the mortgage and your utilities," says Andes.

So when their daughter Kayla and Son Ian went off to school, scholarships didn't cover it. They took out loans and lots of them. Two four-year degrees added up to $120,000 dollars worth of debt. "It cost us about as much to borrow to put our two children thru college as it did to buy our house," says Hilliard.

They're part of a growing number of Americans facing massive loan amounts to help their kids cover college costs. In fact, there's an increasing trend with people who are age 40-50 having the fastest growing amount of student loan debt outstanding.

Mark Kantrowitz of finaid.org points out it's typically not debt from their own undergraduate degrees they owe. Instead, it's debt like "parent plus loans, from their graduate education and from cosigning on," says Kantrowitz. 

The amount borrowed for parent plus loans, the loans offered through the federal government, has doubled in the last decade, with an average balance of $34,000.

More parents than ever are now borrowing for their children's educations and the average amount of debt the parents are taking on is also growing.  Kantrowitz adds,"It's the only form of federal education loans that doesn't have an annual or aggregate loan limit." That's a critical point when combined with the climbing cost of college.

Experts advise parents and students to only borrow what they need.  There is a tendency to borrow to the loan limit which isn't always necessary.

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