A Look at the Shocking Student Loan Debt Statistics for 2021

student-loan-debt-statistics

Updated: Jan. 27, 2021

It’s 2021, and Americans are more burdened by student loan debt than ever.

Among the Class of 2019, 69% of college students took out student loans, and they graduated with an average debt of $29,900, including both private and federal debt. Meanwhile, 14% of their parents took out an average of $37,200 in federal parent PLUS loans.

You’ve probably heard another scary statistic: Americans owe over $1.71 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among about 44.7 million borrowers. That’s about $739 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 data indicate there is:

  • $1.71 trillion in total U.S. student loan debt
  • 44.7 million Americans with student loan debt
  • Defaults were halted as part of the pandemic relief measures — prior to the pandemic, 11.1% of student loans were 90 days or more delinquent or are in default.
  • Monthly student loan payments were halted as part of the pandemic relief measures — prior to the repayment moratorium, the average payment was $300.

(Data via the U.S. Federal Reserve here, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York here.)

Public Service Loan Forgiveness statistics

(As of latest available data from 2020)

  • PSLF borrowers: 1,378,000*
  • Borrowers who submitted forgiveness applications: 227,382 (versus just 90,962 as of September 2019)
  • Borrowers who were granted PSLF: 3,776 (versus 845 as of September 2019)
  • Average balance forgiven: $76,906

* 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, and Dept. of Education here.)

Federal student loan portfolio

(Updated for September 2020)

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 $1.32 trillion 35.9 million borrowers
FFEL Loans $245.9 billion 11.0 million borrowers
Perkins Loans $5.2 billion 1.7 million borrowers
Total (All Federal) $1.57 trillion 42.9 million borrowers

STUDENT LOAN DEBT STATISTICS BY LOAN TYPE:

Stafford Subsidized $285.7 billion 29.6 million borrowers
Stafford Unsubsidized $539.8 billion 29.2 million borrowers
Stafford combined $825.5 billion 33.4 million unique recipients
Grad PLUS $82.8 billion 1.5 million borrowers
Parent PLUS $100.8 billion 3.6 million borrowers
Perkins $5.2 billion 1.7 million borrowers
Consolidation $552.1 billion 11.5 million borrowers

(Data via Studentaid.ed.gov)

STUDENT DEBT STATISTICS BY LOAN STATUS (DIRECT LOAN PROGRAM)

Loans in repayment $14.7 billion 0.4 million borrowers
Loans in deferment $114.4 billion 3.2 million borrowers
Loans in forbearance $887.4 billion 22.2 million borrowers
Loans in default n/a n/a
Loans in grace period $43.7 billion 1.7 million borrowers

(Data via Studentaid.ed.gov)

STUDENT LOAN STATISTICS BY REPAYMENT PLAN (DIRECT LOAN PROGRAM)

Level Repayment Plan
(10 years or less)
$202.6 billion 10.71 million borrowers
Level Repayment Plan
(greater than 10 years)
$78.4 billion 1.73 million borrowers
Graduated repayment plan
(10 years or less)
$93.4 billion 3.16 million borrowers
Graduated repayment plan
(greater than 10 years)
$17.4 billion 350,000 borrowers
Income-Contingent (ICR) $36.0 billion 750,000 borrowers
Income-Based (IBR) $173.0 billion 2.77 million borrowers
Pay As You Earn (PAYE) $108.9 billion 1.49 million borrowers
Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) $191.6 billion 3.22 million borrowers
Alternative $48.9 billion 1.41 million borrowers

(Data via Studentaid.ed.gov)

STUDENT LOAN DEBT BY SERVICER

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)
PHEAA $9.2 0.22 $30.8 0.72 $312.1 5.98 $18.3 0.84 $7.3 0.23
Great Lakes $1.3 0.3 $23.9 0.72 $204.4 5.69 $26.4 1.39 $9.6 0.35
Nelnet $0.8 0.3 $21.5 0.6 $151.2 4.3 $19.7 0.95 $7.2 0.24
Navient $3.2 0.12 $18.6 0.49 $191.0 4.66 $14.5 0.66 $5.8 0.2
Not-for-Profit Servicers $0.7 0.03 $22.3 0.83 $68.0 3.33 $46.3 3.13 $13.7 0.69

(Data via Studentaid.ed.gov)

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:

  • 56% of seniors graduating from public and nonprofit colleges in 2019 had student loan debt.
  • Average debt at graduation from public and nonprofit colleges was $28,800 in 2019, a $400 decrease from 2018.
  • 66% of graduates from public colleges had loans as of May 2018 (average debt of $25,550)
  • 75% of graduates from private, nonprofit colleges had loans as of May 2018 (average debt of $32,300)
  • 88% of graduates from for-profit colleges had loans as of May 2018 (average debt of $39,950)
  • Students borrowed an estimated $102 billion for the 2019-20 academic year, and 14% of that were private and other non-federal loans.
  • About 17% of the student debt held by the graduating class of 2018 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.

(Data via TICAS.org here, here, and here, and the College Board here.)

Private student loan debt statistics

  • Americans owe more than $132 billion to private student lenders.
  • Private student loan debt volume hit an estimated $13.1 billion in the 2018-2019 academic year.
  • 91% of undergraduate and 62% of graduate private loans were co-signed by someone else during the 2019-20 academic year.
  • More than half of undergraduates don’t take full advantage of federal students, borrowing private loans before they’ve exhausted their available federal loans.
  • 16% of student loans for the class of 2019 were private.
  • Interest rates for private loans (as monitored by Student Loan Hero) ran as a high as 12.45% in September 2020.

(Data via Ticas.org here and here, and from LendingTree data)

Clearly, as these student loan debt statistics show, the cost of attending college can be a heavy 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.

Save these statistics for yourself

For press inquiries, please contact [email protected].

Interested in refinancing your student loans?

Here are the top 9 lenders of 2021!
LenderVariable APRAverage Savings 
1.88% – 6.15%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.88% – 5.64%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.50% – 6.85%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.89% – 5.90%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

1.99% – 6.59%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.88% – 5.64%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit NaviRefi

1.90% – 5.25%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

2.39% – 6.01%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

2.13% – 5.25%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit PenFed

Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount

The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of June 1, 2021.


2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Interest Rate Disclosure

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 2.44% APR to 5.79% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.88% APR to 5.64% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance 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 2.04% and 5.8% to the one month LIBOR. Earnest rate ranges are current as of 6/8/2021, and are subject to change based on market conditions.

Auto Pay Discount Disclosure

You can take advantage of the Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. For multi-party loans, only one party may enroll in Auto Pay.

Student Loan Refinancing Loan Cost Examples

These examples provide estimates based on payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 5.89% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,042.39. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 6.04% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,249.77. Your actual repayment terms may vary.Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest. com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

Earnest Loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC or One American Bank, Member FDIC. Earnest Operations LLC, NMLS #1204917. 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105. California Financing Law License 6054788. Visit earnest.com/licenses for a full list of licensed states. For California residents (Student Loan Refinance Only): Loans will be arranged or made pursuant to a California Financing Law License.

One American Bank, 515 S. Minnesota Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57104. Earnest loans are serviced by Earnest Operations LLC with support from Navient Solutions LLC (NMLS #212430). One American Bank and Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

© 2021 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved.


3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. 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 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.


4 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

All credit products are subject to credit approval.

Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.

As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.

Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.

Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.

Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.

KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
 


5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

Fixed rates from 2.49% APR to 6.94% APR (with autopay). Variable rates from 1.99% APR to 6.59% APR (with autopay). All variable rates are based on the 1-month LIBOR and may increase after consummation if LIBOR increases; see more at SoFi.com/legal/#1. If approved for a loan your rate will depend on a variety of factors such as your credit profile, your application and your selected loan terms. Your rate will be within the ranges of rates listed above. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers, or may become available, such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license #6054612; NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). Additional terms and conditions apply; see SoFi.com/eligibility for details. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.


6 Important Disclosures for Navient.

Navient Disclosures

1. NaviRefi loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC, a member of the Navient family of companies, subject to individual approval and underwriting criteria. California residents only: Loans made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lenders Law license. Additional terms and conditions apply.

– To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or non-citizen permanent resident of the United States, reside in a state we lend in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.navirefi.com/help-and-questions. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Loan terms are subject to eligibility. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application. Loan approval is subject to confirmation that your debt-to-income, free cash flow, credit history and application information meet the minimum requirements. You must have a minimum FICO score to be considered.

– You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 2.75% – 6.04% APR (2.50% – 5.79% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 2.13% – 5.89% APR (1.88% – 5.64% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.

– You can take advantage of the 0.25% Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. NaviRefi rate ranges are current as of June 1, 2021 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

– Loan cost examples: These examples provide estimates based on payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 5.89% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,042. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 6.04% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,250. Your actual repayment terms may vary.

– The information provided on this page is updated as of 06/1/2021. Earnest Operations LLC reserves the right to modify or discontinue (in whole or in part) this loan program and its associated services and benefits at any time without notice. Check www.navirefi.com for the most up-to-date information. Terms and Conditions apply. Call 855-284-4893 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

– Earnest Operations LLC – NMLS #1204917, CA CFL #6054788 – 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105.
Navient Solutions, LLC – NMLS #212430 – 123 Justison St., Wilmington, DE 19801. Visit https://navirefi.com/lending-licenses for a full list of licensed states.


7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

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.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 04/07/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.49% APR – 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.


8 Important Disclosures for PenFed.

PenFed Disclosures

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.89%-4.78% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.13%-5.25% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.