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Eye-Opening Numbers on the Average Student Loan Debt in the US

by Darko Jacimovic

Student loan debt remains a serious issue in the United States as the total amount Americans owe has now reached $1.6 trillion.

Reports on the average student loan debt reveal that more and more people are struggling with their payments. Most importantly, this trend hasn’t seemed to slow down over the years. In contrast, it’s getting worse and affects the country’s entire economy.

Experts claim that student loans prevent young Americans from becoming entrepreneurs. For example, in 2014, young people launched only 18% of all startups in the US. Go back to 1996 and this rate drastically improves to 35%.

Still, the high cost of education doesn’t seem to discourage Americans aged 25 and up to go for higher education. The student loan debt statistics show that 21% of US citizens have some college but no degree. Respectively, 19% and 9% hold a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree.

Student Loan Debt Stats & Facts (Editor’s Choice)

  • College debt has reached $1.6 trillion and equals around 7.5% of the GDP.
  • About 70% of Americans graduate with an average school debt of $29,800.
  • 28% of the people with college loans owe between $10,000 and $25,000.
  • Student loan forgiveness programs reject 99.5% of all applications.
  • 55% of white Americans have paid off their school loans.
  • Studies show that the student loan balance for black US citizens is growing.
  • Around 75% of young individuals aged 18–29 acquired debt to get a graduate degree.

General Student Debt Statistics

Average Student Loan Debt - Statistics

1. The total student loan balance reached $1.6 trillion in 2019, i.e., about 7.5% of the GDP.

Year after year, student debt becomes a more pressing issue for the US economy. The exact amount has been constantly growing, only to reach a massive $1.6 trillion in 2019. Just for reference, this amount is about 7.5% of the country’s GDP.

2. The typical monthly rate for student loan payments falls between $300 and $400.

Americans with student debt have an average monthly payment rate between $300 and $400. This shows that the situation hasn’t changed drastically in the past few years. For instance, the average student loan debt monthly payment in 2016 was $393.

With a monthly rate of that size, 41% of Americans said that they couldn’t cover an emergency that cost $400 or more.

3. 20% of Americans with student loans were behind their payments in 2017.

When it comes to late payments, the situation is worsening too. If we go back to the previous years of 2015 and 2016, we’ll note that the rate was lower—the respective share of Americans with late payments was 18% and 19%. So it seems the student loan debt crisis is far from improving.

4. Most of the direct federal loan debt (52%) is in repayment.

Most of the direct student federal loans are in repayment. This category makes up 52% of the total debt. Only 8% of the student balance is in default, while 40% is “on hold.” The listed reasons for the last category vary and include forbearance, grace period, deferment, or still being in school. 

5. Almost 70% of US students leave school with an average debt of $29,800.

Do you ever wonder about the average balance Americans owe when they leave school? For the Class of 2018, the average student loan debt upon graduation is $29,800 per borrower and $16,649 per graduate. Often, this amount of money is enough to buy a new car or start your own business. In fact, experts consider student loan debt as one of the main reasons for the dropping number of young entrepreneurs.

It should be noted that for the Class of 2017 the average graduation balance was slightly lower, at $28,288. With the upward moving trend, the average student loan debt for 2019 is expected to grow.

6. Four states represent over 20% of all student loan borrowers in the US.

More than 20% of student loan borrowers live in four US states and collectively owe over $340 billion. A total of 3.4 million borrowers live in California, while Texas (2.9 million), New York (2.2 million), and Florida (2.2 million) come next on the list.

The respective total student loan debt balance for these four states is $111.7 billion, $85.4 billion, $73.5 billion, and $72.8 billion. 

7. 14% of Class of 2018 parents took $35,600 in federal Parent PLUS loans.

Graduation is usually a festive event. For some parents of the Class of 2018, however, graduation equaled debt. In addition to the 69% of that year’s students who took out a loan, 14% of their parents acquired debt too. Parents took an average of $35,600 in federal Parent PLUS loans, according to statistics on the average student loan debt from 2018.

8. 11.5% of all student loans are in default or 90 days or more delinquent.

Student loans have the most negative figures even when compared to mortgages, auto loans, and credit card delinquency. Approximately 11.5% of students failed to meet their payment duties with a noted delinquency of 90 days or more. In contrast, the respective percentages for the previously mentioned sectors were 1.5%, 4%, and 7.5%.

9. Less than 0.5% of Americans are approved for student loan forgiveness.

In January 2019, the program for student loan forgiveness rejected 99.5% of all applications. Put differently, the program approved only 0.5% of the people with student debt in America for loan forgiveness.

Reportedly, 72% of the applications simply didn’t meet the requirements, whereas 27% of the applications came with either missing or incomplete information. A few months later, in March, the same situation continued when 99% of borrowers saw their applications rejected again.

US College Debt by Location

Average Student Loan Debt - Classroom

10. In 2019, California and Texas remain the states with the highest school debt.

Previously, we mentioned that four states represent over 20% of all the US school debt. The latest reports reveal that California and Texas remain leaders in student loan debt in America. More precisely, in March 2019, students from California owed $131.2 billion and the college balance in Texas reached $103 billion.

It’s fair to mention that the size of the states’ total student debt is closely related to the number of people living there. So it makes sense for states like California to contribute the largest share of college loan debt. 

11. Wyoming, Alaska, and North Dakota are the states with the lowest college balance owed.

In terms of states with the lowest balance, student loan statistics show that Wyoming, Alaska, and North Dakota lead the way here. In 2019, students in Wyoming owed only $1.5 billion. They are followed by those in Alaska with $2.1 billion and then students in North Dakota with $2.3 billion. 

12. In 2017, Connecticut had the highest average graduate debt of $38,510.

Even though California and Texas students owe the most, Connecticut students ended studies with the highest average graduate debt in 2017. While California and Texas didn’t make it to the top five, the average college student debt in Connecticut was $38,510.

Next, we have Pennsylvania with an average student balance of $36,854 and Rhode Island with $36,250. New Hampshire and Delaware complete the top five with respective average college loans of $34,415 and $34,144.

13. Utah, New Mexico, and Nevada students had the lowest average school debt in 2017.

In 2017, Utah was the US state with the lowest average graduate balance of $18,838. It was followed by New Mexico and Nevada. The respective average school balance in these states was $21,237 and $22,064.

National Student Loan Debt by Balance Owed

Average Student Loan Debt - Group

14. The largest share of borrowers (28%) owe between $10,000 and $25,000.

Most Americans with student debt owe $10,000–$25,000. This group of people consists of 12.36 million and makes up 28% of all borrowers. Individuals from this group often manage to pay off their college debt if they get a job right out of college.

Debt this size often results in postponing serious steps in life such as buying a house or starting a business. However, it’s still better than the average student loan debt of almost $30,000.

15. 20% of Americans with student loan debt owe less than $5,000.

A bit of promising news comes in the category of borrowers who owe less than $5,000. Here we have 8.76 million Americans, who represent 20% of all student loan borrowers. In many cases, even though low, debt this size can cause lots of financial issues to individuals from vulnerable groups.

16. Those who owe $5,000–$10,000 represent 17% of all borrowers.

Approximately 7.55 million Americans owe between $5,000 and $10,000. The US student loan debt statistics show that they represent 17% of all borrowers and 37% of the cumulative share of all borrowers. 

17. 19% of US citizens have student loan debt between $25,000 and $50,000.

As the sum owed grows, the number of borrowers drops. This is a good sign but also an indicator that not many students choose to generate massive debt for their education.

In that regard, 19% of Americans—around 8.48 million people—with student loans owe between $25,000 and $50,000. They represent 83% of the cumulative share of borrowers who contribute toward the total US student loan debt.

18. Only 1% of borrowers have student loan debt of $200,000 or more.

Finally, we get to the 1%. Namely, around 2 million people in the US owe more than $100,000. Among them, only 521,500 owe $200,000 or more for their education. It’s interesting to note that even in this category there’s an upward moving trend. The latest reports for 2019 Q2 reveal that the number of Americans with a student balance of over $200,000 reached 800,000.

Federal Student Loan Debt by Loan Type

Average Student Loan Debt - learning

19. The major share (77%) of the federal student loan debt goes to direct loans.

There are several different types of student loans. Among them, direct loans are the most common, with 33 million borrowers. These loans are provided by the US Department of Education to help Americans pay for school. Those 33 million borrowers owe an amount that constitutes 77% of the national student loan debt, i.e., $1.054 trillion. 

20. FFEL loans make up 22% of all student loan debt among Americans.

The second most common type of student loan debt among Americans is the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL). Private lenders provide these funds, but the federal government guarantees them. As a category, the FFEL includes several subtypes of loans. These are the FFEL Plus, FFEL Consolidation, Subsidized Stafford, and Unsubsidized Stafford.

In the US, there are 14.9 million borrowers of FFEL loans who owe $305.8 billion. Official student loan statistics show that these loans represent 22% of the total debt. 

21. Only 1% of the overall student debt belongs to Perkins loans.

The third and last type of student loan is the Perkins loan. The Federal Perkins Loan Program helps students with serious financial aid needs. In 2017 Q4, approximately 2.5 million borrowers owed $7.6 billion via Perkins loans. Put differently, only 1% of the student debt comes from such loans.

Official research into student loan debt from 2019 has noted a decrease in the amount borrowed. What’s more, Perkins loans seem to be losing popularity as the number of borrowers is constantly dropping. From 2.5 million debtors in 2017, this figure dropped to 2.2 million students in 2019. Consequently, the amount owed to Perkins loans fell to $6.6 billion in the second quarter of 2019.

Student Debt in America Based on Type of School

Average Student Loan Debt - teaching

22. In 2017, 65% of seniors from nonprofit and public colleges had student loan debt.

There’s a connection between college debt and the type of school too. Statistics from 2017 show that 65% of the seniors in nonprofit and public colleges generated loan debt. Moreover, their total debt was 1% higher when compared to 2016. The average debt in 2017 for these educational settings was $28,650. 

23. Approximately 15% of the student debt among the Class of 2017 was private.

Around 15% of the balance owed by the graduating Class of 2017 was private. The average college debt among such graduates was $32,300 and constituted 75% of the total balance. Graduates from for-profit colleges had an even higher average debt of $39,950 to pay. 

24. Student loan balances for students who earned a Ph.D. jumped by 104%.

The student loan balances for those completing doctorates jumped by 104% since 1999. Namely, doctorate studies used to cost approximately $48,400 and are now around $98,800. Medical doctorates noted a slightly lower increase of 97% by reaching $246,000 from $124,700.

These figures show that the average student loan debt for a doctoral degree recorded the most serious change over the years. Yet they don’t seem to scare young Americans off—the nation is becoming more educated with each passing year.

25. Since 1999, the debt for master’s degree completers increased by 39%–71%.

The National Center for Education Statistics recorded serious increases in student loan debt among those who’d completed a master’s degree.

The exact jump depends on the type of the program. Master of education degrees saw a change of 71% (to $55,200), while the master of arts degrees noted an increase of 65% (to $72,800). The average student loan debt in master’s programs for science and “other” degrees noted respective jumps of 39% (to $62,300) and 59% (to $75,100). 

26. Technical college or 2-year vocational school attendees generate student debt of about $10,000.

Technical colleges and 2-year vocational schools are gaining popularity among young Americans. They take less of your time but provide you with valuable qualifications.

These vocational schools and technical colleges are more affordable options than getting a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Obtaining these certificates, however, isn’t free. The average student loan debt for a 2-year degree is around $10,000.

Student Loan Data by Gender and Race/Ethnicity

Average Student Loan Debt - College student

27. In 2018, women held about two-thirds of the US’s student loan debt.

Did you know that women represented 56% of the total student population in the US? However, altogether they owe approximately $890 billion, which is about two-thirds of the total college debt in the country.

Put differently, the student loan debt statistics from 2018 show that women in America acquire more debt after graduation. Consequently, it takes them longer to pay it off and reach financial stability.

28. Only 6% of white Americans are behind on their payments.

White Americans manage to pay off their student loans faster than any other group. Only 6% of white US citizens are behind their payments. The biggest share—55% of them—have already paid off their student debt. Approximately 22% of these people belong to the 18–29 age group. About 39% of white Americans have current payments to handle. 

29. On average, white males’ college debt upon graduation is $44,000.

US student loan debt statistics reveal that the average student debt upon graduation among white males was $44,000 in 2017. White females, on the other hand, often graduate with an average balance of $33,000. However, 44% of white men have paid off their loans, while only 28% of white women managed to do the same. Experts highlight the gender pay gap as the main reason for this difference.

30. About 20% of black Americans have difficulties providing payments on time.

Moreover, studies show that the student loan balance for black US citizens is growing. For black women, the average student loan debt is increasing by 13%, while for black men it grows by about 11%. These figures apply to those who haven’t paid off their loans within 12 years after leaving college.

Among all black Americans with college loans, 49% have current payments, and 32% have managed to pay off their debt. Only 7% of those who paid off their loans are aged 18–29. However, one mustn’t forget that the average net worth of white households with a college degree is around $400,000. In contrast, black households with a bachelor’s degree have an average net worth of around $68,000.

31. Hispanics are the most vulnerable group with 21% of them behind on their payments.

Student debt statistics reveal that Hispanics are the most vulnerable group when it comes to college loans. More precisely, 21% of the people from this ethnic group are behind their loan payments. Moreover, a large share, 47%, are still paying off their debt.

In terms of paying off college debt, the figures are almost identical to the ones for black Americans. So here we have 32% of Hispanics who paid off their balance. Only 7% of them were 18–29 years old.

Student Loan Debt in the US by Age and Highest Degree

Average Student Loan Debt - Students

32. 75% of individuals aged 18–29 acquired debt to get a graduate degree.

According to statistics on the average student loan debt by age, most individuals aged 18–29 took out loans to get a graduate degree. More precisely, 75% of the people in this age group acquired debt for this particular qualification.

Moving on to the next age group, 65% of those 30–44 years old applied for loans for a graduate degree. Lastly, 60% of individuals aged 45–59 and 36% of those over 60 found generating debt for a graduate degree worth it.

33. 62% of Americans aged 18–29 who have student loan debt hold a bachelor’s degree.

The second most popular degree among young people with debt is the bachelor’s degree. The student loan debt graph provided by the Federal Reserve shows that 62% of Americans between 18 and 29 took out loans for this qualification.

Among those who acquired debt for their education, 55% aged 30–44 and 48% aged 45–59 hold a bachelor’s degree. In 2018, the average salary for individuals with a bachelor’s degree was $59,124. So this investment is often worth it in the long run.

34. 54% of people aged 18–29 acquired student loan debt to obtain an associate degree.

Students confidently apply for loans to obtain an associate degree too. The official US student loan debt statistics reveal that 54% of Americans from the 18–29 age group generated debt to get an associate degree. The respective percentages for the other age groups (30–44, 45–59, and 60+) are 48%, 35%, and 18%.

Associate degrees are more affordable and quicker to obtain. Consequently, they remain a popular option among Americans. However, the average salary for professionals with an associate’s degree is generally lower and goes up to $45,700. 

35. Americans aged 35–49 owe the highest balance of $557.6 billion.

One of the most interesting student loan debt facts is that Americans from the 35–49 age group owe the most. Their 2019 Q2 total debt was $557.6 billion, up from $522.4 billion in 2018 Q2. There’s an obvious trend of debt growth in this category. Yet this amount is owed by 14.1 million borrowers, making them the second-largest group of debtors.

According to the student loan debt statistics for 2019, only 8.1 billion borrowers are 24 or younger. Their total balance in Q2 was significantly lower, just $124.6 billion. But overall, most people who have a college balance (15.1 million) belong to the 25–34 age group. Their total debt in 2019 Q2 was $497.6 billion. There’s an upward-moving trend in this category, too.

Bottom Line

Average Student Loan Debt - Writing

With the student debt constantly increasing, the situation can only worsen in time. College debt statistics show that Americans need a smarter way to prepare for the costs of higher education. Otherwise, they too will get stuck with monthly payments of $300–$400. Massive debt from college doesn’t only affect the one person who needs to deal with it. Instead, it affects their family, the national economy, and the country in general.

As the statistics on average student loan debt reveal, young Americans must learn from the mistakes of the past. They need a good strategy and budget planning in order to protect themselves. In addition, the government must step up its game for everyone’s sake. The priority here seems to be finding a way to assist vulnerable individuals and help them build a better future.

 

Sources:

Student Loan Hero

CNBC

Federal Reserve

Forbes

Nitro College

Harvard Business Review

Federal Student Aid

Medium

Chamber of Commerce

NCES

Affordable Colleges Online

Lendedu

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