Average Student Loan Debt Statistics in the U.S.

Over 40 million Americans share $1.75 trillion in student loan debt. Find their average debt and more student debt statistics in our guide.

May 5, 2022 · Updated on June 27, 2022

Average Student Loan Debt Statistics in the U.S.
EDU Trends

Data Summary

In 2022, student loan debt in the U.S. reached nearly $1.75 trillion.Go to footnote [1] In constant 2020 dollars, the average tuition and fees at a four-year institution more than doubled between the 1990-1991 and 2019-2020 school years.Go to footnote [2] Federal student loan debt has roughly tripled since 2007.Go to footnote [3] Three in ten adults took on debt to pay for college.Go to footnote [4] Interest rates for federal loans ranged from around 3.7% to 6.3%, depending on the type of loan, during the first half of 2022.Go to footnote [5] Typical fixed interest rates on private student loans range from 3-4% on the low end to 10-13% on the high end.Go to footnote [6] Black and Hispanic students are more likely than average to take on debt to pay for schoolGo to footnote [7] and face more barriers to loan repayment.Go to footnote [4]

A college degree is typically associated with higher earnings.Go to footnote [8] At the same time, the cost of college is rising, and Americans are taking on more student debt in the form of federal and private loans. Having debt may limit career options or delay other life goals.

When you have information about available loans, interest rates, and repayment plans, you can make decisions that benefit your long-term educational and career goals. We've rounded up the latest data about the state of student loan debt in America.

Table of Contents

Total Student Loan Debt

Student loan debt includes federal student loans and private student loans. It does not include other education-related debt, such as credit card debt, home equity loans, and other loans that students or their parents/guardians may use to pay for school.

Total Student Loan Debt Statistics

  • As of March 2022, student loan debt in the U.S. reached nearly $1.75 trillion.Go to footnote [1]
  • Americans owed about $141.5 billion in private student loans at the end of March, 2022.Go to footnote [9]
  • In the same period, Americans owed $1.6 trillion in federal student loans.Go to footnote [3]
  • In 2021, 96% of those with outstanding education-related debt had taken on a student loan to pay for their own education.Go to footnote [4]
  • By the end of Q1 2022, student loan debt made up 36.6% of non-housing debt.Go to footnote [10]

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Student Loan Debt Over the Years

Source: Federal Student Loan Portfolio

Sources: FRED® Economic Research Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics, Federal Student Loan Portfolio

Average Student Loan Debt

In 2022, the average student loan debt for federal loans was $37,358. That's approximately $1.6 trillion of outstanding debt divided by a total of 43.4 million borrowers.Go to footnote [3] However, what individual borrowers owe varies considerably. Debt differs according to borrower demographics, including educational attainment and location.

Average Student Loan Debt Statistics

  • Among borrowers with outstanding student debt, the median debt amount in 2021 was between $20,000 and $24,999.Go to footnote [4]
  • In 2020, bachelor's degree earners from public and private nonprofit four-year schools who graduated with student debt had an average debt of $28,400.Go to footnote [11]
  • Among those who earned their bachelor's degree from private and public nonprofit schools in 2020, the average student debt ranged from $18,344 in Utah to $39,928 in New Hampshire.Go to footnote [12]
  • The average student debt among all bachelor's earners from nonprofit public and private schools increased at an average rate of 4% per year between 1996 and 2012. It leveled off around 2016.Go to footnote [12]

Average Student Loan Debt by State

States Where 2020 Grads Had the Most Debt (Average Debt)

  1. New Hampshire ($39,928)
  2. Delaware ($39,705)
  3. Pennsylvania ($39,375)
  4. Rhode Island ($36,791)
  5. Connecticut ($35,853)

States Where 2020 Grads Had the Lowest Debt (Average Debt)

  1. Utah ($18,344)
  2. New Mexico ($20,868)
  3. California ($21,125)
  4. Nevada ($21,357)
  5. Wyoming ($23,510)

Complete List of Average Student Loan Debt by State

Source: Student Debt and the Class of 2020

Private vs. Federal Student Loan Debt

Banks, schools, state agencies, and other lending institutions may offer private student loans. Federal student loans come from the federal government.

Federal Student Loan Debt Statistics

Federal loans include subsidized loans — meaning the government pays all or part of your loan interest if you demonstrate financial need — and unsubsidized loans.

  • Federal student loans account for roughly 92% of all student loan debt.Go to footnote [9]
  • In 2018-2019, 42% of first-time, full-time students were awarded federal student loans.Go to footnote [13]
  • Interest rates for federal student loans disbursed between July 2021 and July 2022 are:Go to footnote [5]
    • 3.73% for undergraduates
    • 5.28% for graduate students using direct unsubsidized loans
    • 6.28% for parents and graduate students using direct PLUS loans
  • Beginning in March 2020 and set to end in August 2022, the government paused federal student loan repayment and instituted a 0% interest rate on federal student loan debt.

Private Student Loan Debt Statistics

While private student loan debt comprises less than a tenth of all student debt, some trends are troubling. Private loan interest rates can be double to triple that of federal loans. Over half of students who rely on private loans are not taking full advantage of federal loans and almost a third don't take out any federal loans at all.Go to footnote [12]

  • As of March 2022, private student loans accounted for almost 8% of student loan debt.Go to footnote [9]
  • In 2021, about 88.7% of private student loan debt was for undergraduate studies. Graduate students held about 11.3% of private student loan debt.Go to footnote [14]
  • Fixed interest rates on private student loans can range between 3-13%.Go to footnote [6]
  • Private student loan debt among current students and graduates grew 47% between March 2014 and March 2021.Go to footnote [12]
  • In 2015-2016, 53% of undergrads using private student loans did not take out all the federal loan dollars available to them, and 30% of undergraduates with private student loans did not take out any federal loans at all.Go to footnote [12]

Interest rates matter, especially as time passes. The chart below shows how interest on a $20,000 loan compounds with a 4% fixed interest rate (typical of some federal student loans) versus a 10% fixed interest rate (typical of some private loans).

Who Has Student Loan Debt?

While many students take out student loans, debt amounts vary according to race/ethnicity, gender, and degree type, among other characteristics.

Student Loan Debt by Race and Ethnicity

The racial wealth gap creates inequities in higher education and perpetuates trends whereby Black and Hispanic students carry more debt. Researchers have even called student debt "a new mechanism of wealth inequality."Go to footnote [15] Several factors impact the Black student debt crisis in America, including generational wealth, first-generation student status, and workplace discrimination.

Data from 2015-2016 shows that Black degree recipients were more likely than other students to have borrowed federal loan dollars to pay for college.Go to footnote [7]

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Black and Hispanic borrowers also face more difficulties with repayment.Go to footnote [4] In 2021, among people with outstanding student loan debt:

Source: The Federal Reserve

Student Loan Debt by Gender

Student loan debt also varies according to borrowers' self-identified gender.Go to footnote [16]

  • Women carry almost two-thirds of the national student loan debt.
  • 41% of women undergraduates go into debt, compared to just 35% of men.
  • On average, women borrowers owe $22,000 in student loan debt upon graduation. Men owe $18,880 in student loans when they graduate, on average.
  • Black women borrowers owe an average of $37,558 in student loans after graduating.

Student Loan Debt by Age

Today, fewer young people have federal student loan debt compared to previous years. But as students age, they're taking their debt with them through their forties and sometimes beyond.Go to footnote [17]

  • The majority of people with active federal student loan balances are between 25-49.
  • At the end of the first quarter of 2022, there were:
    • 7.4 million federal student loan borrowers with active balances under 25
    • 14.9 million borrowers aged 25-34
    • 14.4 million borrowers aged 35-49
    • 6.4 million borrowers aged 50-61
    • 2.5 million borrowers 62 and older
  • Compared to the end of 2017:
    • The number of borrowers under 25 has decreased by almost 15%
    • The number of borrowers under 35 has decreased by almost 7%
    • The number of borrowers 35 and older has increased by about 10%

Source: U.S. Department of Education

Student Loan Debt by Degree Level

Graduate students are more likely to take out a federal student loan than students pursuing other degrees or certificates. Students also tend to borrow more for doctoral and professional degrees, less for bachelor's and master's degrees, and the least for associate degrees.

In 2021, among people between the ages of 18-29:Go to footnote [4]

  • 58% of graduate degree-holders went into debt for their education.
  • 58% of bachelor's degree-holders incurred student debt.
  • 39% of associate degree-holders incurred student debt.
  • 37% of technical degree-holders or people who completed some college incurred student debt.

Among borrowers who graduated in 2016-17 and 2017-18:Go to footnote [18]

  • Associate degree-holders took out a median of $14,000 in student loan debt.
  • Bachelor's degree-holders borrowed a median of $23,000.
  • Master's degree-holders borrowed a median of $40,000.
  • Doctoral degree-holders borrowed a median of $73,000.
  • Professional degree-holders borrowed a median of $144,000.

Source: Texas Public Policy Foundation

Student Loan Debt by School Type

Graduates from private, non-profit colleges have more debt than those who attended public colleges.Go to footnote [12] Graduates of for-profit colleges are most likely to have high debt and difficulty repaying.

Federal student loans are more widely used among public and private non-profit college students, suggesting that students who attend for-profit colleges may rely more on private loans, which have higher interest rates.

  • As of the end of the first quarter of 2022:Go to footnote [19]
    • 25.3 million students who attended public colleges owed $705.7 billion in federal student loans.
    • 13.7 million students who went to private non-profit colleges owed $552.9 billion in federal loans.
    • 12.4 million students who attended private for-profit schools owed $277.3 billion in federal loans.
  • Among those who attended public colleges, 40% incurred debt. 57% of those who attended non-profit private schools and 59% of those who attended for-profit private schools incurred debt.Go to footnote [4]
  • As of 2021, 23% of borrowers under 40 who attended for-profit schools were behind on their student loan payments compared to 11% of public school graduates and 7% of graduates from private non-profit schools.Go to footnote [4]


References

  1. Federal Reserve Statistical Release: Consumer Credit, The Federal Reserve. June 2022.
  2. Table 330.10. Average undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board rates charged for full-time students in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by level and control of institution: Selected years, 1963-64 through 2019-20, NCES. Accessed April 2022.
  3. Federal Student Loan Portfolio: Summary, Federal Student Aid, an Office of the U.S. Department of Education. Accessed May 2022.
  4. Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2021, The Federal Reserve. May 2022.
  5. Federal Interest Rates and Fees, Federal Student Aid, an Office of the U.S. Department of Education. Accessed April 2022.
  6. Calonia, Jennifer. Student Loan Interest Rates in April 2022. Bankrate.
  7. Fast Facts: Student Debt, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). July 2020.
  8. "Education Pays," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. April 2021.
  9. Calculated using data from Federal Reserve Statistical Release: Consumer Credit and the Federal Student Loan Portfolio.
  10. Household Debit and Credit Report, Center for Microeconomic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Q4 2021.
  11. Trends in College Pricing & Student Aid 2021, College Board. February 2022.
  12. Student Debt and the Class of 2020, The Institute for College Access and Success. November 2021.
  13. Table 331.20. Full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by participation and average amount awarded in financial aid programs, and control and level of institution: 2000-01 through 2018-19. NCES. Accessed April 2022.
  14. The MeasureOne Private Student Loan Report. Reporting as of September 2021.
  15. Houle, Jason N., Addo, Fenaba R., Racial Disparities in Student Debt and the Reproduction of the Fragile Black Middle Class, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. August 2018.
  16. Fast Facts: Women and Student Debt, American Association of University Women. Accessed April 2022.
  17. Federal Student Loan Portfolio: By Age, Federal Student Aid, an Office of the U.S. Department of Education. Accessed April 2022.
  18. Gillen, Andrew, College Student Loan Debt 2021, Texas Public Policy Foundation. September 2021.
  19. Federal Student Loan Portfolio: By School Type, Federal Student Aid, an Office of the U.S. Department of Education. Accessed April 2022.