What’s the average student loan debt in America?
September 30, 2022 6 min read
Total student loan debt in the U.S. exceeds $1.7 trillion, with the credit bureau Experian® reporting the average student loan debt stood at $39,381 in the second quarter of 2022. That means the average American’s student loan debt has climbed by almost 92% since 2009.
Looking at it another way, the average ratio of student loan debt to income for people with bachelor’s degrees was 53.8% in 2020, compared with 36.5% in 2010, according to the Education Data Initiative.
No matter the ratio, student loan debt impacts millions of Americans. Slightly over 60% of people who’ve completed graduate school have student loan debt from their graduate studies, the Education Data Initiative says. For undergraduates, that figure is 54.2%. In fact, the average student loan debt for Americans in the second quarter of 2021 was 91.6% higher than it was for auto loan debt and 665% higher than it was for credit card debt, according to Experian.
- The average student loan debt in America is $39,381.
- Americans owe more than $1.7 trillion in student loan debt.
- The White House has extended the pandemic-era freeze on federal student loan payments until December 31, 2022.
- Up to 43 million Americans could benefit from the federal student loan forgiveness program announced in August 2022.
Average student loan debt in America
The average student loan debt among borrowers in America is $39,381, according to Experian. Federal loans made up 92.4% of all student loans in 2021, and private loans represented the remaining 7.6%, according to a report from MeasureOne.
Here’s a breakdown of student loan debt in America.
Here are the five places in the U.S. with the highest average student loan debt as of the fourth quarter of 2021:
- District of Columbia: $53,769
- Maryland: $42,543
- Georgia: $41,826
- Delaware: $39,238
- Virginia: $39,001
Here are the five places in the U.S. with the lowest average student loan debt as of the fourth quarter of 2021:
- South Dakota: $28,218
- Iowa: $29,845
- Alaska: $30,427
- North Dakota: $30,542
- Wyoming: $30,581
The 30-39 age group held the most student loan debt in 2021, while the 60+ age group held the least:
- Under 30: $355.55 billion
- 30-39: $515.59 billion
- 40-49: $344.83 billion
- 50-59: $231.9 billion
- 60+: $126.61 billion
By type of loan
Four types of student loans are backed by the federal government: Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans and Direct Consolidation Loans. Meanwhile, banks, credit unions, online lenders, schools and state agencies provide private student loans.
Here’s how the average debt stacked up for federal student loans and private student loans in 2021, according to the Education Data Initiative:
- $36,510 per borrower for federal student loan debt
- $54,921 per borrower for private student loan debt
Student loan debt statistics
The statistics for student loan debt in America are eye-opening:
- Number of student loan borrowers: 43,467,200 as of 2021.
- Number of borrowers in default on their student loans as of 2021: 3 million.
- Dollar amount of student loans in default as of 2021: Nearly $86.1 billion.
- Median credit score for all student loan borrowers as of 2021: 681.
- Median credit score for delinquent or defaulted student loan borrowers as of 2021: 546.
- State with highest delinquency rate for student borrowers as of 2021: West Virginia (11%).
- States with lowest delinquency rate for student loan borrowers as of 2021 were Nebraska and North Dakota (tied at 4.8%).
- About 75% of student loan borrowers got loans to attend two- or four-year colleges; they represent about half of outstanding student loan debt. Meanwhile, the remaining 25% of borrowers attended graduate school; they represent the other half of outstanding student loan debt.
- Nearly one-third of all student loan debt is owed by the richest 20% of households, and 8% is owed by the poorest 20% of households.
- Average federal student loan debt is $20,000 for someone whose highest education level is an associate degree, $32,300 for someone at the bachelor’s degree level and $189,162 for someone at the graduate degree level.
Federal student loan debt freeze
The White House has extended the pandemic-era freeze on payments for federal student loans until December 31, 2022. Payments are supposed to resume in January 2023.
Here are some key statistics from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about the student loan debt freeze:
- More than 26 million borrowers have had their federal student loan payments suspended as a result of the federal CARES Act, which was passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A report released in early 2022 found that the median borrower making payments before the pandemic had saved $133 per month due to the federal student loan payment suspension.
- The end of the payment freeze will require borrowers to resume making roughly $6 billion a month in payments on federal student loans.
Student loan forgiveness
In August 2022, the White House unveiled a massive initiative to wipe out some or all of borrowers’ federal student loan debt. Here are the key details:
- Up to $20,000 in debt cancellation is available for Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the U.S. Department of Education.
- Up to $10,000 in debt cancellation is available for non-Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the Department of Education.
- Debt cancellation is limited to federal student loan borrowers whose income is less than $125,000 for individuals or $250,000 for households.
- All federal student loan debt might be forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program for borrowers who work for nonprofits; the military; or federal, state or tribal government agencies.
Average student loan debt in a nutshell
The more than $1.7 trillion in student loan debt in America can and does affect how borrowers pay other bills, such as rent, credit cards and auto loans. But the White House says up to 43 million borrowers could gain relief through the loan forgiveness program announced in August 2022.
If, despite the forgiveness program, you’ll still be grappling with student loan debt, you can learn more about how to pay off student loans faster.