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Student loan debt statistics in 2022

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There is currently more than $1.7 trillion in outstanding student loan debt in the United States, with more than 42 million Americans currently holding federal student loans.

Paying for college isn’t getting easier, and student debt can impede borrowers’ ability to buy homes, get married or expand families. Here’s a breakdown of student loan debt with the most recent figures and how you can tackle it.

Key student loan debt statistics

The U.S. student debt crisis

College costs continue to rise, causing borrowers to graduate with thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Data from the Federal Reserve shows that the total outstanding student loan debt has increased by roughly 84 percent since 2011.

Year Total outstanding student debt (in millions)
2011 $959,823.95
2012 $1,054,565.11
2013 $1,145,550.75
2014 $1,235,751.47
2015 $1,320,248.14
2016 $1,405,332.16
2017 $1,488,895.49
2018 $1,570,539.65
2019 $1,646,377.28
2020 $1,702,599.57
2021 $1,747,261.68
2022 (YTD) $1,761,867.40

Source: The Federal Reserve

Student loan debt and COVID

Student loan debt — and higher education in general — has been impacted significantly since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. According to Federal Reserve data and MeasureOne:

  • Student debt growth slowed during the pandemic; debt increased by $75,837.63 million in 2019, while it increased by only $56,222.29 million in 2020. In 2021, it grew by only $44,662.11.
  • In the third quarter of 2020, 0.66 percent of private student loan balances were more than 90 days delinquent. By the third quarter of 2021, that percentage rose to 0.94 percent.

Student loan debt and the CARES Act

The CARES Act was implemented as a way to alleviate the financial strain of the pandemic. One of the provisions was a pause on federal student loan payments and collections activities, which is currently in place through Aug. 31, 2022.

The most recent report from the U.S. Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) found that, as of March 2022:

  • Nearly 25 million Direct Loan borrowers are in forbearance status, with more than 99 percent of those balances in the CARES Act forbearance.
  • Roughly $1 trillion of Direct Loans are in forbearance status.
  • Fewer than 500,000 Direct Loan borrowers are in repayment status, opting out of the CARES Act flexibilities.

Individual student loan debt statistics

Here’s how student loan debt in the U.S. impacts individual borrowers:

  • The age group with the most student loan borrowers is the 25 to 34 age bracket, while 7.4 million borrowers are 24 years old or younger.
  • In the class of 2020, 55 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients graduated with student loan debt.
  • In 19 states, the average student loan debt was over $30,000 for the class of 2020, and it was over $35,000 in six states.
  • As of March 2021, 54 percent of borrowers owed less than $20,000 in student loans, and 10 percent owed $80,000 or more.
  • The average estimated budget for undergraduates for the 2021-22 school year was $18,830 for public two-year in-district students, $27,330 for public four-year in-state students, $44,150 for public four-year out-of-state students and $55,800 for private nonprofit four-year students.

Student debt and mental health

Student loan debt can have a significant impact on a borrower’s mental health. Feelings of anxiety and stress may coincide with any long-term debt, especially if the debt impedes the ability to meet important financial milestones, like saving for a house or buying a car.

Federal student loan debt statistics

Federal student loans are offered by the U.S. Department of Education, rather than by private lenders. They’re a good first choice for any student considering student loans, and they comprise more than 90 percent of the U.S. student debt portfolio.

Student loan debt by loan type

All new loans originated by the federal government are part of the Direct Loan program: Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, grad PLUS loans, parent PLUS loans and Direct Consolidation Loans. Because of this, Direct Loans make up the greatest portion of the federal student loan portfolio. However, there are still borrowers who are paying off older Perkins or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans.

Here’s how total loan amounts have changed for each loan type in the past three years:

Direct Subsidized (in billions) Direct Unsubsidized (in billions) Grad PLUS (in billions) Parent PLUS (in billions) Perkins (in billions) Consolidation (in billions)
​​2019 – Q1 $276.8 $490.9 $71.3 $89.8 $6.9 $515.6
2019 – Q2 $280.0 $503.5 $70.7 $93.9 $6.6 $521.8
​​2019 – Q3 $277.4 $504.2 $71.9 $92.9 $6.3 $528.4
2019 – Q4 $280.7 $516.0 $75.2 $96.1 $6.1 $536.1
​​2020 – Q1 $279.6 $516.3 $75.3 $95.6 $5.9 $542.4
2020 – Q2 $282.9 $528.5 $78.8 $99.4 $5.6 $547.7
​​2020 – Q3 $282.3 $529.1 $79.5 $98.3 $5.4 $550.2
2020 – Q4 $285.7 $539.8 $82.8 $100.8 $5.2 $552.1
​​2021 – Q1 $285.2 $539.4 $82.7 $100.3 $4.9 $552.6
2021 – Q2 $289.8 $552.7 $86.3 $103.6 $4.7 $554.7
2021 – Q3 $288.7 $553.5 $87.3 $102.8 $4.3 $554.5
2021 – Q4 $291.5 $563.5 $90.7 $105.4 $4.4 $555.1
2022 – Q1 $290.9 $562.5 $90.6 $104.8 $4.2 $553.3

Source: U.S. Department of Education

Student loan debt by state

The three states with the lowest student debt per borrower are North Dakota, Iowa and South Dakota; in each of these states, the average student debt per borrower comes in at less than $31,000. The three states with the highest student debt per borrower are Maryland, Georgia and Virginia, where the average debt per student is near or above $40,000. Washington, D.C., has the highest average debt per student overall at $54,945.

The chart below summarizes each state’s total federal student loan balance, the number of borrowers and the average federal student debt per borrower as of Dec. 31, 2021.

State Federal debt (in billions) Number of borrowers (in thousands) Average federal debt per borrower
Alabama $23.5 632.8 $37,137
Alaska $2.3 67.6 $34,024
Arizona $31.4 887.1 $35,396
Arkansas $13.0 390.0 $33,333
California $141.8 3,823.7 $37,085
Colorado $28.5 774.0 $36,822
Connecticut $17.5 497.7 $35,162
Delaware $4.8 127.8 $37,559
District of Columbia $6.5 118.3 $54,945
Florida $100.9 2,623.6 $38,459
Georgia $68.6 1,647.5 $41,639
Hawaii $4.5 122.4 $36,765
Idaho $7.2 218.1 $33,012
Illinois $61.6 1,631.5 $37,757
Indiana $29.8 906.5 $32,874
Iowa $13.2 433.3 $30,464
Kansas $12.5 383.7 $32,578
Kentucky $19.7 601.0 $32,779
Louisiana $22.5 651.7 $34,525
Maine $6.2 187.1 $33,137
Maryland $35.9 837.6 $42,861
Massachusetts $30.8 902.0 $34,146
Michigan $51.0 1,412.1 $36,116
Minnesota $26.5 788.6 $33,604
Mississippi $16.2 439.0 $36,902
Missouri $29.5 833.4 $35,397
Montana $4.2 126.7 $33,149
Nebraska $7.9 247.5 $31,919
Nevada $11.8 349.7 $33,743
New Hampshire $6.5 190.7 $34,085
New Jersey $42.5 1,199.4 $35,434
New Mexico $7.8 228.0 $34,211
New York $92.7 2,460.3 $37,678
North Carolina $49.2 1,304.3 $37,721
North Dakota $2.5 87.4 $28,604
Ohio $62.3 1,794.3 $34,721
Oklahoma $15.4 488.5 $31,525
Oregon $20.1 543.0 $37,017
Pennsylvania $64.5 1,822.8 $35,385
Rhode Island $4.6 143.5 $32,056
South Carolina $28.1 731.5 $38,414
South Dakota $3.6 116.3 $30,954
Tennessee $31.4 862.2 $36,418
Texas $120.0 3,645.2 $32,920
Utah $10.1 307.6 $32,935
Vermont $2.9 77.3 $37,516
Virginia $42.4 1,082.6 $39,165
Washington $28.0 788.5 $35,510
West Virginia $7.2 227.2 $31,690
Wisconsin $23.2 727.4 $31,894
Wyoming $1.7 54.4 $31,250

Source: U.S. Department of Education

Private student loan debt statistics

Private student loans are offered by online lenders, banks and credit unions. While private student loans should only be taken out once federal aid potential has been exhausted, they still account for almost a tenth of student loan debt in America. Here’s how private student loans contribute to the overall levels of student debt in the U.S., according to the MeasureOne Private Student Loan Report:

  • As of Sept. 30, 2021, the total outstanding private loan debt balance was $131.1 billion, or 7.61 percent of the total student loan debt in the U.S.
  • Undergraduate loans made up 88.69 percent of this total number, while graduate loans made up 11.31 percent.
  • 2.44 percent of outstanding balances were in forbearance, down from 3.68 percent in the third quarter of 2020.
  • 2.22 percent of outstanding balances in repayment were delinquent by at least 30 days.

Student loan debt by degree

Advanced degrees are expensive, but the investment could pay off. Here’s what you need to know before taking out graduate student loans, according to the Brookings Institute and MeasureOne:

  • Around 25 percent of all undergraduates graduate with less than $20,000 in student loan debt; borrowers who leave school with more than $57,500 have almost always borrowed for graduate school.
  • About 25 percent of all student loan borrowers went to graduate school.
  • Graduate students account for roughly half of the total outstanding student loan debt in the U.S.
  • Those who earn an advanced degree may earn a larger annual income and have increased job security.
  • Graduate students are less likely to fall into delinquency with private loans; 2.3 percent of undergraduate balances in repayment are at least 30 days delinquent, while 1.65 percent of graduate balances in repayment are at least 30 days delinquent.

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Written by
Hanneh Bareham
Student loans reporter
Hanneh Bareham specializes in everything related to student loans and helping you finance your next educational endeavor. She aims to help others reach their collegiate and financial goals through making student loans easier to understand.
Edited by
Student loans editor