How Many People Have Student Loan Debt?

Just over 42 million Americans have federal student loan debt. Find out how many people have student loan debt by year, state, age, degree level, and other demographics in this guide.
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Data Summary

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    As of 2022, 42.8 million Americans have federal student loans.[1]
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    Approximately 13% of all Americans had federal student loan debt in 2021.Note Reference [1], [2]
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    In 2022, 9.7 million borrowers have between $20,000-$40,000 of student loan debt.Note Reference [1]
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    A larger percentage of female undergraduate students received federal loans than male undergraduates between 1999 and 2018.[3]
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    In the U.S., Washington D.C. has the highest percentage of the population of student loan debt at 17.5%, and Hawaii has the lowest at 8.4%.Note Reference [1], [4]

One of the most important considerations that students think about when making their college choice is cost and how they are going to pay for school.

Federal student loans can help students pursue higher education if they are not able to afford the rising cost of college on their own. However, with student loans inevitably comes student loan debt.

Whether they are in debt by $5,000 or $200,000, over 40 million people in the United States have student loan debt. In this report, we've rounded up the latest data about how many people have student loan debt, including by state, age, gender, and ethnicity.

How Many People Have Student Loans Over Time

In the past decade, the average cost of college tuition increased by 20%, from $11,397 to $13,677.[5] As the cost of college continues to rise, the number of people with student loans has also increased.

  • As of 2022, 42.8 million Americans have federal student loans.Note Reference [1]
  • The average increase of borrowers per year between 2007 and 2021 was approximately 1.1 million borrowers.Note Reference [1]
  • Between 2018 and 2020, the number of borrowers plateaued at 42.9 million borrowers before reaching its peak of 43.4 million borrowers in 2021.Note Reference [1]
  • The largest increase of borrowers year over year occurred between 2008 and 2011, when there was an increase of 2.2 million additional borrowers per year for three years straight.Note Reference [1]

Source: Federal Student Aid, an Office of the U.S. Department of Education (ED)

Student Loan Borrowers by Debt Size

  • In 2022, 9.7 million borrowers held between $20,000-$40,000 in student loan debt, the largest group of borrowers by debt size.Note Reference [1]
  • About 19 million borrowers had student debt between $10,000-$40,000 in 2022. This group made up about 44% of all student loan borrowers.Note Reference [1]
  • Only 1 million borrowers had debt over $200,000 in 2022.Note Reference [1]
  • In the last five years, the number of borrowers with debts under $20,000 decreased by about 1.5 million borrowers. And the number of borrowers with debt larger than $20,000 increased by about 2.4 million borrowers.Note Reference [1]

Source: EDNote Reference [1]

How Many People Have Student Loans by Demographic

How Many People Have Student Loans by Race and Ethnicity

Based on data from the American Council on Education and the National Center for Education Statistics, in the 2015-16 school year:

  • 69% of all bachelor's recipients had student loan debt, or around 1.3 million students.[6], [7]
  • Approximately 842,000 white students, 168,000 Black students, and 158,000 Hispanic students who received a bachelor's degree that year incurred student loan debt.Note Reference [6], Note Reference [7]
  • Despite lower overall numbers of borrowers than white students, Black students had a much higher rate of student loan borrowing considering their total student population size. About 86% of Black bachelor's recipients borrowed compared to just 70% of white bachelor's recipients.Note Reference [6], Note Reference [7]
Bachelor's Recipients Who Borrowed Student Loans in 2015-16, by Race/Ethnicity
Racial/Ethnic Group Percent of Bachelor's Recipients Number of Bachelor's Recipients
All racial/ethnic groups 68.9% 1,323,396
White 70.3% 841,718
Black 86.4% 167,968
Hispanic or Latino 67.3% 158,282
Asian/Pacific Islander 58.8% 81,298
American Indian/Alaska Native 76.2% 7,418
Two or more races 73.7% 45,387

Note: Percentage and number of Asian and Pacific Islander degree recipients who borrowed loans is approximate as data sources differed in whether they combined or separated these groups.

Source: American Council on Education (ACE) and National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

How Many People Have Student Loans by Gender

In general, more women tend to have student loan debt than men. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics:

  • In the 2017-18 school year, just over 441,000 male bachelor's students had student loan debt compared to about 697,000 female bachelor's students.Note Reference [7], [8]
  • Although in 2017-18 more female students were pursuing their bachelor's degree than men, a larger percentage of women had student loan debt compared to male students (61% vs. 52%).Note Reference [8]
  • Between 1999-2018, a consistently larger percentage of female undergraduate students received federal loans than male undergraduates.Note Reference [3]

It is important to note that not all student loan borrowers fall into strictly male or female binaries. Transgender and nonbinary students might have a sex assigned at birth that does not coincide with their gender identity and/or expression.

How Many People Have Student Loans by Age

Although people across many age groups can incur education-related debt, nearly two-thirds of borrowers are between the ages of 25 and 49.Note Reference [1]

  • There were 14.9 million borrowers aged 25-34 in 2022. This represents a slight decline from five years ago (2017), when there were 15.2 million borrowers within this same age group.Note Reference [1]
  • Within all other age groups, the last five years have seen increases in the amount of student loan borrowers.Note Reference [1]
  • The majority of borrowers in 2022 are between the ages of 25 and 49.Note Reference [1]

At the end of the third quarter in 2022, there were:

  • 6.9 million borrowers younger than 24.Note Reference [1]
  • 14.9 million borrowers aged 24-34.Note Reference [1]
  • 14.5 million borrowers aged 35-49.Note Reference [1]
  • 6.4 million borrowers aged 50-61.Note Reference [1]
  • 2.5 million borrowers who are 62 and older.Note Reference [1]

Source: EDNote Reference [1]

How Many People Have Student Loans by Degree and School Type

In the 2017-18 academic year, over 1.1 million bachelor's recipients and 350,00 associate degree recipients had student loans.Note Reference [8], [9]

Total Number of Graduates With Federal Student Loans by School Type and Degree Level, 2017-18
Degree Level Public Private Nonprofit Private For-Profit
Associate Degree 248,069 38,972 63,313
Bachelor's Degree 714,484 345,519 72,949

Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)Note Reference [8], Note Reference [9]

Though the total number of students who graduated with student loan debt from public schools was higher overall than from private schools, this is only because many more students attend public colleges. Students who graduated from private schools held student loans at higher rates than those graduating from public schools.Note Reference [8], Note Reference [9]

Source: NCESNote Reference [8], Note Reference [9]

How Many People Have Student Loans by State

The number of student loan borrowers varies across state lines. Although the median percentage of a state's student loan debt was 12.7% in 2022, there were a few standouts — Washington D.C. has the highest percentage of its population that holds student loan debt at almost 17.5%, and Hawaii has the lowest at around 8.4%.Note Reference [1], [10]

Source: EDNote Reference [1] and United States Census Bureau



References

  1. Federal Student Loan Portfolio: By Location, Federal Student Aid, an Office of the U.S. Department of Education. March 2022. (back to content ⤶)
  2. U.S. Population Estimated at 332,403,650 on Jan. 1, 2022. U.S Department of Commerce. January 6, 2022. (back to content ⤶)
  3. Table 331.35. Percentage of full-time, full-year undergraduates receiving financial aid, and average annual amount received, by type and source of aid and selected student characteristics: Selected years, 1999-2000 through 2015-16. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Accessed October 2022. (back to content ⤶)
  4. Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021 (NST-EST2021-POP). U.S. Census Bureau. December 2021. (back to content ⤶)
  5. 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 2020-21. NCES. January 2021. (back to content ⤶)
  6. Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education: 2020 Supplement Data Tables. American Council on Education (ACE). Month 2016. (back to content ⤶)
  7. Table 322.20. Bachelor's degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity and sex of student: Selected years, 1976-77 through 2018-19. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Accessed September 2022. (back to content ⤶)
  8. Table 331.95. Percentage of undergraduate degree/certificate completers who ever received federal loans and parent PLUS loans and average cumulative loan amount, by degree level, selected student characteristics, and institution control: 2017-18. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Accessed September 2022. (back to content ⤶)
  9. Table 318.40. Degrees/certificates conferred by postsecondary institutions, by control of institution and level of degree/certificate: 1970-71 through 2019-20. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Accessed September 2022. (back to content ⤶)
  10. State Population Totals and Components of Change: 2020-2021. United States Census Bureau. December 2021. (back to content ⤶)