Many parents and children in America have something in common. It’s their lingering college deduction debt.

Renee Allen, a law professor, says her mother, in her late 50s, is still paying off her student loans and likely could be for the rest of her life. Despite scholarships, grants and working two jobs while in college, Allen says she still owes more than $250,000 for her undergrad and law school loans. She’s 11 years out of college and a lot of what she owes is interest.

“My ability to help my future children through school are limited. And so the cycle then continues,” Allen told NPR’s Ari Shapiro.

Allen is one of 44 million people in America with student debt. That debt totals more than $1.6 trillion. That’s less than the total mortgage debt in America but higher than credit card debt, according to the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank.

Taking out student loans was seen as a good investment, with education driving up an individual’s long-term earnings. However, all student debt isn’t good. There are a number of people who are taking out education debt and not seeing a positive return. Those are the individuals who are most likely to default on their loans.

For example, students with small amounts of debt default in disproportionately high numbers, mostly because they only attended school for a short time and never graduated. They have the debt without the degree.

In general, a lot of debt hinders an individual’s ability to borrow for other things, like buying a home or investing in their own children’s education. The situation is even worse for those who default on their loans.

Defaults negatively impact credit ratings, and in turn the ability to borrow, and potentially the ability to rent an apartment or even get a license for some professions.