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At This Rate, It Will Take 100 Years to Pay Off America’s Student Debt

Escaping from debt often takes longer—much longer—than you think.

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Illustration: Eva Cremers for Bloomberg Businessweek

The Wilsons are hardly the kind of couple you’d expect to find locked in a latter-day debtors’ prison. Jon works as a manager for an online transcription business. Vicky is a digital marketer for a semiconductor company. They’re both 37, and together the Austin couple makes more than $150,000 annually.

The Wilsons owe $260,000 in student loans for college and a pair of master’s degrees for Vicky. Even worse, though they’re meeting their $1,300 in required monthly payments, their balance has remained roughly the same over the last year because Vicky’s outlay doesn’t cover all of the interest on her loans. For all their education and career success, the Wilsons can’t envision repaying their school debts—ever. And forget about buying a home or opening a college fund for their 3-year-old son. “We don’t even think about it,” Jon says.