Student Loan Debt Statistics

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Mark Kantrowitz

By Mark Kantrowitz

July 23, 2020

More than two-thirds of Bachelor’s degree recipients in the Class of 2019 graduated with an average of $29,900 in student loan debt. Collectively, 45 million student loan borrowers owe $1.6 trillion in federal and private student loan debt.

These, and other student loan statistics presented in this article, were first developed by Mark Kantrowitz, the nation’s leading expert on student loan debt.

The student loan statistics provided in this article are based on the most recent data. This article will be updated whenever new data becomes available.

This article includes answers to common questions about how much student loan debt is owed, by whom and for what. It also addresses questions concerning the types of loans, repayment statistics, loan forgiveness, and student loan deferment, delinquency and default.

Key Student Loan Statistics

For convenience, this article has been split into four separate articles, which are summarized by this table that shows the key student loan statistics for each article.

Average Student Loan Debt at Graduation (Class of 2019)

  • $29,900 average student loan debt at graduation (69%) for Bachelor’s degree recipients
  • $37,200 average parent loan debt at graduation (14%) for parents of Bachelor’s degree recipients
  • Average student loan payment of $393 (median $222)
  • Average repayment term of 16 years
  • About 1 in 6 Bachelor’s degree recipients graduates with excessive student loan debt (total debt exceeding annual income)
  • Students who graduate with a Bachelor’s degree from a public college in 5 years graduate with slightly less debt than students who graduate with a Bachelor’s degree from a private non-profit college in 4 years, although they are more likely to graduate with student loan debt

Total Student Loan Debt Outstanding

  • $1.6 trillion federal and private student loan debt to 45 million borrowers
  • Student loan debt exceeded credit card debt in 2010, auto loan debt in 2011 and reached the $1 trillion mark in 2012
  • Prediction: Total student loan debt outstanding will reach $2.0 trillion in late 2023 or early 2024
  • Two thirds of student loan debt was borrowed by undergraduate students
  • More than half of student loan debt was borrowed by students at public colleges, a third by students at private non-profit colleges and one-sixth by students at for-profit colleges
  • 13.7% of the U.S. population has student loan debt
  • Women owe $976 billion and will reach $1 trillion in student loan debt around Halloween 2019

Student Loan Repayment Statistics

  • About half of student loan borrowers (48.3%) in the Direct Loan program are in active repayment of their student loans
  • 21.8% are in an in-school or grace period
  • 15.8% are in a deferment or forbearance
  • 13.5% are in default
  • 16.7% of Direct Loan borrowers in repayment are delinquent (10.0% have a serious delinquency) and 83.3% are current
  • The current 3-year cohort default rate is 10.8% (FY2015)
  • Half of new defaults are at public colleges and a third at private for-profit colleges, with only a sixth at private non-profit colleges
  • More than one million borrowers default for the first time each year, with half defaulting within the first three federal fiscal years of entering repayment
  • About a sixth of Bachelor’s degree recipients are graduating with excessive student loan debt, but very few of these borrowers default
  • College dropouts are 4.2 times more likely to default on their federal student loans than college graduates
  • Two-thirds (63%) of defaults on federal student loans are from college dropouts
  • 0.7% of applicants have qualified for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
  • 37% of borrowers age 65 or older are in default on their federal student loans

Statistics Concerning Student Loan and Borrower Characteristics

  • The aggregate percentage of student loan debt by age decreases for borrowers who are age 40 or older
  • Older borrowers who still have student loan debt tend to face more challenges repaying their student loans
  • The states with the most college students (California, Texas, Florida, New York, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and North Carolina) tend to have the most student loan borrowers

Data Sources

The student loan statistics in these articles are based on analyses of government data by Mark Kantrowitz. The data sources include:

In addition, Mark Kantrowitz analyzed data from various databases provided by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) at the U.S. Department of Education using the DataLab tools (PowerStats and TrendStats). The analyses include the following datasets:

  • Baccalaureate and Beyond (B&B) longitudinal studies, 1994, 2001, 2008
  • Beginning Postsecondary Students (BPS) longitudinal studies, 1990, 1996, 2004, 2012
  • National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), undergraduate and graduate studies, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016


About the Author

Mark Kantrowitz is Publisher and VP of Research of, the most popular guide to saving and paying for college. He is well known for several important student loan developments, including:

  • He discovered the early repayment status loophole that allowed millions of borrowers to save billions of dollars in interest on their federal student loans by locking in historically low interest rates while the borrowers were still in school in 2005.
  • He helped develop the income-based repayment (IBR) plan by developing a flexible calculator that policymakers could use to explore variations on the design of income-driven repayment plans in 2007.
  • He predicted a contagion effect from the subprime mortgage credit crisis to student loans long before most people realized that there was a subprime mortgage credit crisis. His white paper and testimony before the Senate Banking Committee lead to passage of the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act (ECASLA) in 2008, avoiding a liquidity crisis in the student loan industry and enabling a smooth transition to 100% Direct Lending.
  • He created the first student loan debt clock in 2010.
  • He was the first to report that student loan debt outstanding had exceeded credit card debt in 2010, auto loans in 2011 and reached the $1 trillion milestone in 2012.

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