Updated: Feb. 4, 2019
It’s 2019, and Americans are more burdened by student loan debt than ever.
Among the Class of 2018, 69% of college students took out student loans, and they graduated with an average debt of $29,800, including both private and federal debt. Meanwhile, 14% of their parents took out an average of $35,600 in federal Parent PLUS loans.
You’ve probably heard another scary statistic: Americans owe over $1.56 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among about 45 million borrowers. That’s about $521 billion more than the total U.S. credit card debt.
But how does this break down at a more granular level? Are student loans being used to attend public or private universities? Is it mostly from four-year or graduate degrees? What percentage of overall graduates carry debt? Are more grads utilizing private student loan consolidation and refinancing?
Let’s take a look.
(Data provided by Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of research with SavingforCollege.com, as well as by the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, unless otherwise specified.)
General student loan debt facts
First, let’s start with a general picture of the student loan landscape. The most recent reports indicate there is:
- $1.56 trillion in total U.S. student loan debt
- 44.7 million Americans with student loan debt
- 11.5% of student loans are 90 days or more delinquent or are in default
- Average monthly student loan payment (among those not in deferment): $393
- Median monthly student loan payment (among those not in deferment): $222
Public Service Loan Forgiveness statistics
As of Q3 2018 (latest available data)
PSLF borrowers: 890,516*
Borrowers who attempted to certify for PSLF: 1,173,420
Borrowers who submitted forgiveness applications: 19,321
Borrowers who were granted PSLF: 55
* Total number of borrowers who have one or more approved PSLF Employment Certification Forms (ECF)
(Note: Borrowers are self-identified based on submission of an ECF. Source: United States Government Accountability Office, via the Report to Congressional Requesters)
Federal student loan portfolio
(updated for Q4 2018)
Now let’s dive into how much debt student loan borrowers carry by loan type, term and more.
Student loan debt statistics by loan program:
|Direct Loans||$1.1503 trillion||34.2 million borrowers|
|FFEL Loans||$281.8 billion||13.5 million borrowers|
|Perkins Loans||$7.1 billion||2.3 million borrowers|
|Total (All Federal)||$1.4392 trillion||42.9 million borrowers|
Student loan debt statistics by loan type:
|Stafford Subsidized||$277.5 billion||29.6 million borrowers|
|Stafford Unsubsidized||$489.6 billion||28.7 million borrowers|
|Stafford combined||$767.1 billion||33.1 million unique recipients|
|Grad PLUS||$67.0 billion||1.3 million borrowers|
|Parent PLUS||$89.9 billion||3.6 million borrowers|
|Perkins||$7.1 billion||2.3 million borrowers|
|Consolidation||$508.0 billion||11.9 million borrowers|
Data via Studentaid.ed.gov
Student debt statistics by loan status (Direct Loan Program)
|Loans in repayment||$623.7 billion||17.8 million borrowers|
|Loans in deferment||$124.3 billion||3.7 million borrowers|
|Loans in forbearance||$111.1 billion||2.6 million borrowers|
|Loans in default||$101.4 billion||5.1 million borrowers|
|Loans in grace period||$43.9 billion||1.7 million borrowers|
Student loan statistics by repayment plan (Direct Loan Program)
|Level Repayment Plan(10 years or less)||$196.2 billion||10.83 million borrowers|
|Level Repayment Plan(greater than 10 years)||$76.5 billion||1.69 million borrowers|
|Graduated repayment plan(10 years or less)||$84.2 billion||3.03 million borrowers|
|Graduated repayment plan(greater than 10 years)||$15.1 billion||320,000 borrowers|
|Income-Contingent (ICR)||$29.9 billion||660,000 borrowers|
|Income-Based (IBR)||$168.5 billion||2.83 million borrowers|
|Pay As You Earn (PAYE)||$78.9 billion||1.27 million borrowers|
|Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)||$136.7 billion||2.45 million borrowers|
Student loan debt by servicer
(updated for Sept. 30, 2018)
Data Source: National Student Loan Data System
More shocking student loan debt statistics
If those numbers weren’t stunning enough, here’s a closer look at how students accumulate debt based on the type of school they attend.
- 65% of seniors graduating from public and nonprofit colleges in 2017 had student loan debt.
- Average debt at graduation from public and nonprofit colleges was $28,650 in 2017, a 1% increase from 2016.
- 66% of graduates from public colleges had loans (average debt of $25,550)
- 75% of graduates from private nonprofit colleges had loans (average debt of $32,300)
- 88% of graduates from for-profit colleges had loans (average debt of $39,950)
- About 15% of the student debt held by the graduating class of 2017 was private.
- 48% of borrowers who attended for-profit colleges default within 12 years, compared to 12% of public college attendees, and 14% of nonprofit college attendees.
Graduates who received Pell Grants were likely to borrow, and borrow more:
- 88% of graduates who received Pell Grants had student loans in 2012, with an average balance of $31,200.
- 53% of those who didn’t receive a Pell Grant had student loan debt, borrowing an average of $26,450 ($4,750 less than those with Pell Grants).
Private student loan debt statistics
- Private student loan debt volume hit $7.8 billion in 2014-15, up from $5.2 billion in 2010-11.
- More than half of undergraduates don’t take full advantage of federal students, borrowing private loans before they’ve exhausted their available federal loans.
- In 2011-2012, 48% of private loan borrowers attended schools that had tuition costs of $10,000 or less
- Nearly 1.4 million undergraduates borrowed private loans in 2011-2012
- About 15% of debt carried by seniors graduating in 2017 was in private loans — compared to 16% of the graduating class of 2016 with private loans — with an average burden of $18,550.
- Interest rates for private loans ran as a high as 14.24% in September 2018.
Graduate student loan debt
In 2012, about 40% of all student loan debt was used to finance graduate and professional degrees.
Combined undergraduate and graduate debt by degree:
- MBA = $42,000 (11% of graduate degrees)
- Master of Education = $50,879 (16%)
- Master of Science = $50,400 (18%)
- Master of Arts = $58,539 (8%)
- Law = $140,616 (4%)
- Medicine and health sciences = $161,772 (5%)
- Other master’s degrees = $55,489 (15%)
Clearly, as these student loan debt statistics show, the cost of attending college is becoming a growing burden for a huge portion of Americans.
What are you doing to pay off your debt and ensure you don’t become another statistic? Be sure to let us know how we can help.
(Data via 2012 Newamerica.org study)
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|Lender||Variable APR||Average Savings|
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.97% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
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2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.
All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.28% effective October 10, 2018.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.47% – 6.97%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.47% – 6.99%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.68% – 8.96%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.23% – 6.65%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.61% – 7.35%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.00% – 9.74%6||Undergrad & Graduate|