Student loan debt statistics
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
- 42.8 million Americans have federal student debt.
- In total, the U.S. has $1.73 trillion in outstanding student debt.
- The average borrower has $37,175 in federal student loan debt.
- Student loans are the second-largest type of consumer debt, falling behind mortgage debt.
- 92.11 percent of student loan debt is federal, while 7.89 percent is private.
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 80 percent since 2011.
|Year||Total outstanding student debt (in millions)|
Source: The Federal Reserve
Student loan debt and COVID
- Student debt growth slowed in 2020; debt increased by $75,837.63 million in 2019, while it increased by only $56,222.29 million in 2020.
- Prior to the pandemic, the percentage of private student loans in repayment that were at least 90 days delinquent sat at 1.1 percent. In the second quarter of 2020, that percent dropped to 0.72 percent and dropped even lower to 0.66 percent in the third quarter.
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 Jan. 31, 2022.
The most recent report from the U.S. Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) found that, as of March 2021:
- More than 23 million Direct Loan borrowers are in forbearance status, with more than 99 percent of those balances in the CARES Act forbearance.
- Roughly $938 billion of Direct Loans are in forbearance status.
- Only 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 largest group of student loan borrowers is the 25 to 34 age bracket, while 2 million borrowers are 24 years old or younger.
- In the class of 2019, 62 percent of college seniors graduated with student loan debt.
- In 21 states, the average student loan debt was over $30,000 for the class of 2019, and it was over $35,000 in five states.
- The average student loan debt over a 15-year period grew by roughly 56 percent, outpacing inflation.
- During the 2018-19 academic year, roughly 43 percent of full-time, first-time undergraduate students were awarded financial aid in the form of student loans.
- The average estimated budget for undergraduates for the 2020-21 school year was $18,550 for public two-year in-district students, $26,820 for public four-year in-state students, $43,280 for public four-year out-of-state students and $54,880 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.
- 10 percent of Americans’ biggest financial regret is taking on too much student loan debt.
- 42 percent of adults and 33 percent of Gen Z reported in 2018 that personal debt, including student loans, is a significant source of stress.
- The financial pressure of student loan payments can lead to stress, anxiety and depression.
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 two 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|
Source: U.S. Department of Education
Student loan debt by state
Federal student loan debt varies by state based on the size and the number of schools that each state has. The three states with the lowest student debt per borrower are North Dakota, Wyoming and Iowa; 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 $55,220.
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 June 30, 2021.
|State||Federal debt (in billions)||Number of borrowers (in thousands)||Average federal debt per borrower|
|District of Columbia||$6.4||115.9||$55,220|
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 March 31, 2021, the total outstanding private loan debt balance was $136.31 billion, or 7.89 percent of the total student loan debt in the U.S.
- Undergraduate loans made up 88.73 percent of this total number, while graduate loans made up 11.27 percent.
- 3.12 percent of outstanding balances were in forbearance, down from 7.04 percent in the second quarter of 2020.
- 2.46 percent of outstanding balances in repayment were delinquent by at least 30 days.
Student loan debt by degree
- Around 25 percent of all undergraduates graduate with less than $20,000 with 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 are graduate students.
- 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; 2.56 percent of undergraduate balances in repayment are at least 30 days delinquent, while 1.7 percent of graduate balances in repayment are at least 30 days delinquent.
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