A Look at the Shocking Student Loan Debt Statistics for 2018


Updated: May 1, 2018

It’s 2018 and Americans are more burdened by student loan debt than ever. In fact, the average student loan debt for Class of 2017 graduates was $39,400*, up six percent from the previous year.

You’ve probably heard the other scary statistic: Americans owe over $1.48 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among about 44 million borrowers. That’s about $620 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 with Private Student Loans Guru)

BONUS: Get a PDF of these statistics to print out, save, or send

General student loan debt facts

First, let’s start with a general picture of the student loan debt landscape. The most recent reports indicate there is:

  • $1.48 trillion in total U.S. student loan debt
  • 44.2 million Americans with student loan debt
  • Student loan delinquency rate of 11.2% (90+ days delinquent or in default)
  • Average monthly student loan payment (for borrower aged 20 to 30 years): $351
  • Median monthly student loan payment (for borrower aged 20 to 30 years): $203

(Data via federalreserve.gov, WSJ, newyorkfed.org here, here and here and clevelandfed.org here)

Public Service Loan Forgiveness statistics

As of Q3, 2017 (latest available data)

PSLF Borrowers: 739,719*

* – Total number of borrowers who have one or more approved PSLF Employment Certification Forms (ECF)

Note that borrowers are self-identified based on submission of an ECF.

Source: FedLoan Servicing via studentaid.ed.gov

Federal student loan portfolio

(updated for Q2, 2017)

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 $1,003.3 billion 32.1 million borrowers
FFEL Loans $320.5 billion 15.7 million borrowers
Perkins Loans $7.9 billion 2.6 million borrowers
Total (All Federal) $1,331.7 billion 42.3 million borrowers

Student loan debt statistics by loan type:

Stafford Subsidized $272.5 billion 29.4 million borrowers
Stafford Unsubsidized $449.6 billion 27.9 million borrowers
Stafford combined $722.2 billion 32.6 million unique recipients
Grad PLUS $55.7 billion 1.1 million borrowers
Parent PLUS $81.5 billion 3.4 million borrowers
Perkins $7.9 billion 2.6 million borrowers
Consolidation $464.5 billion 12.0 million borrowers

Data via Studentaid.ed.gov

Student debt statistics by loan status (Direct Loan Program)

Loans in repayment $535.6 billion 16.6 million borrowers
Loans in deferment $112.9 billion 3.6 million borrowers
Loans in forbearance $100.1 billion 2.6 million borrowers
Loans in default $74.9 billion 4.3 million borrowers
Loans in grace period $26.2 billion 1.4 million borrowers

Student loan statistics by repayment plan (Direct Loan Program)

Level Repayment Plan(10 years or less) $199.6 billion 11.15 million borrowers
Level Repayment Plan(greater than 10 years) $74.9 billion 1.68 million borrowers
Graduated repayment plan(10 years or less) $75.4 billion 2.83 million borrowers
Graduated repayment plan(greater than 10 years) $13.6 billion 0.29 million borrowers
Income-Contingent (ICR) $25.5 billion 0.61 million borrowers
Income-Based (IBR) $171.6 billion 3.01 million borrowers
Pay As You Earn (PAYE) $56.1 billion 1.10 million borrowers
Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) $77.0 billion 1.52 million borrowers

Student loan debt by servicer

(updated for June 30, 2016)

Repayment Deferment Forbearance In-School Grace
Outstanding(billions) Recipients(millions) Outstanding(billions) Recipients(millions) Outstanding(billions) Recipients(millions) Outstanding(billions) Recipients(millions) Outstanding(billions) Recipients(millions)
AES-PHEAA $155.7 4.48 $31.1 0.97 $42.1 0.90 $32.4 1.55 $11.4 0.45
Great Lakes $115.1 4.21 $28.1 0.95 $24.2 0.71 $36.3 1.93 $12.1 0.46
Nelnet $84.9 3.13 $21.9 0.75 $15.3 0.49 $29.1 1.46 $10.2 0.41
Navient $112.3 3.71 $25.0 0.77 $28.5 0.72 $23.7 1.22 $8.4 0.32
$44.8 2.01 $3.1 0.17 $4.2 0.13 $5.9 0.74 $0.8 0.11

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.

In 2012, 71 percent of students graduating from four-year colleges had student loan debt:

  • Represents 1.3 million students graduating with debt, increase from 1.1 million in 2008
  • 66 percent of graduates from public colleges had loans (average debt of $25,550)
  • 75 percent of graduates from private nonprofit colleges had loans (average debt of $32,300)
  • 88 percent of graduates from for-profit colleges had loans (average debt of $39,950)

Twenty percent of 2012 graduate loans were private

Graduates who received Pell Grants were likely to borrow, and borrow more:

  • 88 percent of graduates who received Pell Grants had student loans in 2012, with an average balance of $31,200
  • 53 percent of those who didn’t receive a Pell Grant had student loan debt and borrowed $4,750 less ($26,450)

(Data via Ticas.org)

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.
  • From 2011-2012, borrowers didn’t take advantage of federal student loans as much as they could have: 19 percent didn’t take out Stafford loans, 8 percent didn’t apply for federal financial aid, 11 percent applied for federal aid but didn’t take out a Stafford loan, 28 percent had Stafford loans but borrowed less than they were eligible for
  • In 2011-2012, 48 percent 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

(Data via Ticas.org)

Graduate student loan debt

About 40 percent of the $1 trillion 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%)

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 aren’t another statistic? Be sure to let us know how we can help.

(Data via 2012 Newamerica.org study)

Save these statistics for yourself

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