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Home Blog 30+ Average Student Loan Debt Facts – What No One Tells You

30+ Average Student Loan Debt Facts – What No One Tells You

by Darko Jacimovic

Student loan debt remains a serious issue in the United States as the total amount Americans owe has now reached $1.56 trillion.

Reports on the average student loan debt reveal that more and more people are struggling with their payments. And most importantly, this trend hasn’t seemed to slow down over the years. On the contrary, 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%.

Let’s take a look at the facts behind these worrying numbers:

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

  • College debt has reached $1.56 trillion and equals around 7.5% of the GDP
  • About 70% of Americans graduate with an average school debt of $29,800
  • 25% of all student loans come from only 4 states
  • 20% of borrowers owe between $20,000 and $40,000
  • Perkins loans account for only 3.6% of all debt
  • Two-thirds of all student debt is held by women
  • 26% of black or African-American students are behind with their payments
  • 68% of Millennials acquire loan debts in pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree

Average Student Loan Debt 2020

Average Student Loan Debt - Statistics

1. The total student loan balance reached $1.56 trillion in 2020.

(Source: Forbes)

Year after year, student debt becomes a more pressing issue for the US economy. The exact amount has continually been growing, only to reach a massive $1.56 trillion in 2020. 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 $200 and $299.

(Source: Federal Reserve)

Americans’ average student loan debt monthly payment rate is between $200 and $299, according to the latest 2020 data issued by this Federal Reserve report.

This shows that the situation has drastically improved over the past few years, as in 2016, the payment rate averaged $393 per month.

3. 24% of Americans with student loans are behind their payments in 2020.

(Source: SPI)

When it comes to late payments, the situation is worsening too. If we go back to the previous years, we’ll note that the rate was lower—the respective share of Americans with late payments was 19% and 20%. So it seems the student loan debt crisis is far from improving.

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

(Source: YouGov)

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.

(Source: HBR)

Do you ever wonder about the average balance Americans owe when they leave school? Well, the latest figures state that the average graduate student loan debt 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 also be noted that the research also indicates that about 60% of all borrowers are expected to carry and pay off their average student loan debt from 2019 into their 40s.

6. Four states represent over 25% of all student loan borrowers in the US.

(Source: Forbes)

More than 25% of student loan borrowers live in four US states and collectively owe over $420 billion. A total of 3.8 million borrowers live in California, while Texas (3.4 million), Florida (2.5 million), and New York (2.4 million) come next on the list.

The respective total student loan debt balance for these four states is $135 billion, $107.3 billion, $90.8 billion, and $87.3 billion.

7. 14% of the Class of 2019 parents took $37,200 in federal Parent PLUS loans.

(Source: Student Loan Hero)

Graduation is usually a festive event. For some parents of the Class of 2019, 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 $37,200 in federal Parent PLUS loans, according to college student statistics on the average student loan debt.

8. 10.8% of all student loans are default or 90+ days delinquent.

(Source: Forbes)

Student loans have the most negative figures, even when compared to mortgages, auto loans, and credit card delinquency. Approximately 10.8% of students failed to meet their payment duties with 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. About 1% of Americans are approved for student loan forgiveness.

(Source: Student Aid)

As of January 2020, the program for student loan forgiveness rejected 99% of all applications. Put differently, the program approved only 1,565 of the people with student debt in America for loan forgiveness.

Reportedly, 149,091 of the applications simply didn’t meet the requirements, whereas 9,991 of the applications came with either missing or incomplete information and were outright dismissed.

From the total amount of processed applications, the PSLF servicer approved 2,246 applications, of which 1,565 (or 69% of approved applications) were accepted for loan discharge.

The total amount that was forgiven through this PSLF servicer amounted to a whopping $99,184,903.

Average Student Loan Debt by State

Average Student Loan Debt - Classroom

10. As of March 31st of 2020, California and Texas remain the states with the highest school debt.

(Source: Student Aid / Department of Education)

Previously, we mentioned that four states represent over a quarter (25%) of all United States school debt. The latest reports by the Department of Education from 31st of March in 2020 reveal that California and Texas remain leaders in the average amount of student debt in America. More precisely, students from California now owe $137.8 billion, and the college balance in Texas reached $110.6 billion up from $135 billion and $107.3, respectively.

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.

(Source: Student Aid / Department of Education)

In terms of states with the lowest balance, student debt statistics show that Wyoming, Alaska, and North Dakota lead the way here. In March 2020, students in Wyoming owed only $165 billion. They are followed by those in Alaska with $2.2 billion and then students in North Dakota with $2.4 billion.

12. In 2019, Connecticut had the highest average graduate debt of $38,669.

(Source: Ticas)

Even though California and Texas students owe the most, Connecticut students ended studies with the highest average graduate debt in 2019. While California and Texas didn’t make it to the top five, the average college student debt in Connecticut was $38,669, further increasing the stress college students endure.

Next, we have Pennsylvania with an average student balance of $37,061 and New Hampshire with $36,776.

The percentage of graduates with debt for these three states are the following:

  • Connecticut – 59%
  • Pennsylvania – 65%
  • New Hampshire – 76%

13. Utah, New Mexico, and Nevada students had the lowest average school debt in 2019.

(Source: Ticas)

In 2019, Utah was the US state with the lowest average graduate balance of $19,728. New Mexico and Nevada closely follow, with $21,858 and $22,600, respectively.

The percentage of graduates with debt for these three states are the following:

  • Utah – 36%
  • New Mexico – 49%
  • Nevada – 51%

National Average Student Loan Debt by Balance Owed - Q2 of 2020

Average Student Loan Debt - Group

14. The largest share of borrowers (20%) owe between $20,000 and $40,000.

(Source: Student Aid)

Most Americans with student debt owe between $20,000–$40,000. This group of people consists of 9.4 million and makes up 20% 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.

Also, keep in mind that these figures don’t include private student debts, and FFEL defaulted debts.

15. 17% of Americans with student loan debt owe less than $5,000.

(Source: Student Aid)

A bit of promising news comes in the category of borrowers who owe less than $5,000. Here we have 7.7 million Americans, who represent 17% 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 16% of all borrowers.

(Source: Student Aid)

Approximately 7.5 million Americans owe between $5,000 and $10,000. These student loan statistics show that they represent about $54.3 billion from the total debt.

17. 9% of US citizens have student loan debt between $40,000 and $60,000.

(Source: Student Aid)

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, 9% of Americans—around 4.1 million people—with student loans owe between $40,000 and $60,000. They amass a total of $203.2 billion of the total US student loan debt.

18. Only 2% of borrowers have student loan debt of $200,000 or more.

(Source: Student Aid)

Finally, we get to the 2%. Namely, around 3.2 million people in the US owe more than $100,000. Among them, only 900,000 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 Q2 of 2019 reveal that the number of Americans with a student balance of over $200,000 reached 800,000.

Federal Median Student Loan Debt by Loan Type - Q2 of 2020

Average Student Loan Debt - learning

19. The major share (52%) of the federal student loan debt goes to direct loans.

(Source: Department of Education)

There are several different types of student loans. Among them, direct loans (or Stafford 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 52% of the national student loan debt, i.e., $811.4 million.

20. FFEL loans make up 94% of all student loan debt among Americans.

(Source: Department of Education)

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 48.1 million borrowers of FFEL loans who owe $145.85 billion. Official student loans statistics show that these loans represent 94% of the total debt.

21. Only 3.6% of the overall student debt belongs to Perkins loans.

(Source: Department of Education)

The third student loan is the Perkins loan. The Federal Perkins Loan Program helps students with serious financial aid needs. In Q2 of 2020, approximately 1.9 million borrowers owed $5.6 billion via Perkins loans. Put differently, only 3.6% of the student debt comes from such loans.

Official research into the current student loan debt 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 2.2 million debtors in Q2 of 2019, this figure dropped to 1.9 million students in Q2 of 2020. Consequently, the amount owed to Perkins loans fell from $6.6 billion in the second quarter of 2019.

22. 5.1% of the overall debt comes from Grad PLUS loans.

(Source: Department of Education)

According to these college debt statistics, the Grad PLUS loan is the least popular among students. With only 1.4 million students in debt, this type of loan is last in line for students to select.

Judging by the total amount that is owned, it’s with good reasons too. Namely, these 1.4 million students owe a staggering total of $78.8 million, or 5.1% of the overall student debt.

Now let’s turn our attention toward student loans based on school types:

Average US Student Loan Debt Based on Type of School

Average Student Loan Debt - teaching

23. 65% of seniors from nonprofit and public colleges had student loan debt.

(Source: Ticas)

There’s a connection between college debt and the type of school too. Statistics show that 65% of the seniors in nonprofit and public colleges generated loan debt. Moreover, their total debt was 2% higher when compared to the year before. The average debt for these educational settings was $29,200.

24. Approximately 17% of the student debt among the Class of 2018 was private.

(Source: Ticas)

Around 17% of the balance owed by the graduating Class of 2018 was private. The average college debt among such graduates was higher compared to those who received federal loans. Not only that, but these private loans also provide fewer repayment options and consumer protections.

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

(Source: NCES)

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 doctors 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.

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

(Source: NCES)

The National Center for Education Statistics recorded acute 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).

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

(Source: College Scholarships)

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, though, is not free. The average debt for a 2-year degree is around $10,000.

Student Loan Debt Statistics by Gender and Race/Ethnicity

Average Student Loan Debt - College student

28. Women hold about two-thirds of the US’s loan debt.

(Source: AAUW)

Did you know that women represent 56% of the total student population in the US? However, altogether they owe approximately $929 billion, which is about two-thirds of the total college debt in the country.

This means that women in America acquire more debt after graduation, according to these college student loan debt facts. Consequently, it takes them longer to pay it off and reach financial stability.

29. Only 7% of white Americans are behind on their payments.

(Source: Federal Reserve / AAUW)

White Americans manage to pay off their student loans faster than any other group. Only 7% of white US citizens are behind on their payments, and about 64% are currently paying off their student loans.

Less than a third, or 29% of white American students, have already paid their debts off upon graduation. However, reports indicate that women graduates who find work immediately after college are receiving salaries equal to 74% of what male graduates would make.

30. Asian students record the lowest mean total borrowed or $50,759.

(Source: AAUW)

Student loan debt statistics reveal that the mean total amount borrowed to finance a student’s education is the lowest within the Asian population.

Black or African-American students record the highest amounts borrowed, approximately $73,223, with women being the ones with the highest mean total amount borrowed, or $37,558.

31. About 26% of black or African-Americans have difficulties providing payments on time.

(Source: Federal Reserve / AAUW)

Less than a third of all black or African-American students are behind on their payments. The average student debt continues to increase, with only 11% of black or African-Americans having their debts fully paid off.

Currently, about 63% are paying off their student loans. In terms of gender differences, a shocking 57% of all black female students and college graduates are having financial difficulties in repaying their loans.

32. Hispanics are less vulnerable compared to black or African-American students, with 19% of them behind on their payments.

(Source: Federal Reserve)

Student debt statistics reveal that Hispanics are NOT the most vulnerable group when it comes to college loans. More precisely, 19% of the people from this ethnic group are currently behind their loan payments. Moreover, a large share, or about 60%, are still paying off their debt.

In terms of college debt completely paid off, the figures are right in between compared with white and black or African-American students. Here we have 21% of Hispanics who have paid off their balance entirely.

Average Student Loan Debt by Age and Highest Degree

Average Student Loan Debt - Students

33. 33% of individuals aged 25–34 acquired debt to get a graduate degree.

(Source: Forbes)

According to these statistics, the highest number of individuals that took out a loan to get a graduate degree are between 25 to 34 years of age. More precisely, a third (or 33%) of the people in this age group acquired debt for this particular qualification.

Even though this age group represents the highest percentage of students acquiring a loan, they are not the ones with the most debt. Which brings us to the next stat:

34. Americans aged 35–49 owe a total amount of $575.5 billion.

(Source: Forbes)

The following student loan debt graph suggests that this age group is the one with the highest loan amounts borrowed.

Namely, about 14.1 million borrowers, or about 31% of all borrowers, owe a total of $575.5 billion.

  • Age <24 - $121.2 billion (8.2 million borrowers)
  • Age 25-34 - $501.5 billion (15.0 million borrowers)
  • Age 35-49 - $575.5 billion (14.1 million borrowers)
  • Age 50-61 - $241.2 billion (6.0 million borrowers)
  • Age 62+ - $75.9 billion (2.1 million borrowers)

35. An average of 45% of Millennials opt to acquire loan debt to obtain an Associate’s degree.

(Source: New America)

Students confidently apply for loans to obtain an Associate’s degree. These student loan debt statistics of 2019 reveal that 45% of Millennials decide to borrow money for an Associate’s degree.

39% of them are male students, and 49% are female students, who decide to borrow money accumulating a median debt of $14,500.

Women are the ones with higher loan amounts, or a median debt of $15,500, while male students go into a median debt of $12,461 for an Associate’s degree.

36. An average of 68% of Millennials opt to acquire loan debt to obtain a Bachelor’s degree.

(Source: New America)

The same student debt statistics of 2019 indicate that about two-thirds of all Millennial students decide to acquire a loan in order to get into college.

Namely, 70% of female students and 65% of male students go into debt to get the chance to acquire a Bachelor’s degree.

Similarly, women again take up more loans for higher education as well. Figures report a median debt of $27,000, while for male students, the median debt amounts to $26,766.

Student Debt Statistics - Recap

Average Student Loan Debt - Writing

With the student debt constantly increasing, the situation can only worsen in time. 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 college debt doesn’t just affect the person who’s dealing with it, but it affects their family and the national economy as well.

As numerous statistics reveal, young Americans must learn from the mistakes of the past. However, the government also needs to step up its game for everyone’s sake. The priority must be to find a way to assist vulnerable individuals and help them build a better future.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the average student loan debt in 2019?

2019 was a year to be forgotten when it comes to student loan debts. According to the latest reports, the total loan debt in 2019 reached an all-time record high of $1.41 trillion.

The average amount owed by both graduate and non-graduate students in 2019 was $35,359 per borrower, with 54% of all students taking on debt payments for their education.

This marks a 6% increase from the year before in what appears to be a growing trend, unfortunately.

What is the average student loan debt in 2020?

As of 2020, there are 44.7 million students with loan debts across America. Collectively, both graduate and non-graduate students owe a total of $1.56 trillion, or an average of $32,731 per person.

$122.9 billion of these are direct loans in forbearance spread across 2.8 million borrowers, and $119.8 billion are direct loans that are cumulative in default spread across 5.5 million borrowers.

Furthermore, the student default rate is 10.8%, with a 90+ days delinquency.

What is the average student loan debt per month?

Each student owes an average of $32,731 for the loans they have acquired for education. They pay an average amount of $393 per month due to these accumulated loan debts.

This means that with an average monthly rate of $393, a student would be able to completely pay back the entire loan in 83 months, or about 6.9 years.

However, these numbers are valid only in ideal scenarios, even though numerous college grads believe and expect to pay off their debts within this time frame.

How long does it take the average person to pay off student loans?

As we’ve reiterated before, college grads believe they can pay off their student loans within a 6-year period.

The reality, though, is different. Not everyone has the same loan balance or circumstance to pay back the debt. It’s also good to point out that post-college life will not have college loan debt as the only financial burden.

With that in mind, and according to recent reports, a student would take up to 20 years to pay back the entire loan.

Can student loans be forgiven?

The short answer is, yes, student loans can be forgiven. However, it’s good to point out that not all types of loans are eligible for forgiveness.

Federal student loans are the only loans to have the ability for loan forgiveness qualification. Even though these loans are forgiven under specific circumstances, the government can forgive the full loan or a part of the loan, depending on the student’s obligations, requirements, and qualifications.

Why is student loan debt so high?

Student loan debts and college tuition have reached an all-time high. Colleges are expensive for a number of reasons, including a lack of state funding, an increase in demand, and an increase in financial aid, among others.

Over the past 12 years, the cost of going into college and obtaining a 4-year degree has risen by more than 25%, with student debt increasing by a shocking 107%!

One of the reasons why college has become so expensive is technology advancement, especially automation jobs, that require an advanced type of degree. A higher degree doesn’t come at a low price, consequently increasing the average student loan debt.

Going into debt to pay for education pays off at the end, as today’s reports indicate that college grads earn an astonishing 80% more than those who possess just a high school diploma.

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