The rising cost of higher education is dogging Americans into retirement, with people aged 65 and older still carrying some $18.2 billion in unpaid student loans, according to a federal report released on Wednesday.

While the Government Accountability Office report noted that relatively few U.S. households headed by people 65 or over are carrying student loans, the value of the unpaid debt had spiked from $2.8 billion in 2005, before the financial crisis.

That debt is concentrated in a small number of homes. Just 4 percent of households headed by someone 65 or older carried student loan debt as of 2010, up from 1 percent in 2004.

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