Some of these older Americans are still grappling with their first wave of student loans, while others took on new debt when they returned to school later in life in hopes of becoming more competitive in the labor force. Many have co-signed for loans with their children or grandchildren to help them afford ballooning tuition. The recent recession exacerbated this problem, making it harder for older Americans — or the younger people they are supporting in school — to get good-paying jobs. And unlike other debts, student loans cannot be shed in bankruptcy. As a result, some older Americans have found that a college degree has led not to a prosperous career but instead to a lifetime under the shadow of debt.