Student Loan Debt Statistics for 2019


Over 44 million Americans have student loans on file, adding up to a staggering $1.52 trillion in May of 2018. The class of 2017 walked off the podium with an average debt of $39,400 and that number is expected to rise above $40,000 for the graduating class of 2018. The US Census reported in 2015 that 33% of Americans held a bachelor’s degree or higher which raised five percentage points from the reported 28% of Americans that held a degree a decade before.

Many cite the growth in Americans pursuing higher education to the job market. A study conducted by Forbes surveying over 26 million job postings found that 67% of jobs required a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The burden of student loans is poised to have lasting effects on graduates as home ownership among Americans under the age of 35 is down and the expected retirement age is rising. With college tuition on the incline it is important for graduates and potential student loan borrowers to practice strategic financial planning in order to plan for future investments.

General Student Loan Debt Statistics

Student Loan Default Rates

A borrower defaults on a loan when the payment is more than 270 days late. Missing and defaulting on student loan payments has a severe effect on your credit score and creates barriers when applying for insurance plans and financing, as well as seeking housing and loans.

  • 40% of borrowers who entered school in 2005 are projected to default on their student loans by 2023. [Source: Brookings]
  • In 2015 half of defaulted borrowers owed less than $10,000. [Source: Brookings]
  • Students who attended for-profit colleges are two times more likely to default within a 12-year period as students who attended public universities. [Source: Brookings]

Student Loan Debt by Age

Analyzing student loan borrowers by age demographics can be helpful to understand the financial status of Americans. In December of 2017 there were a total of 44.8 million student loan borrowers in America. Over 37% of all student loan borrowers were under the age of 30 and around 27% were between the age of 30–39.

As of March of 2018 the total balance of student loan debt in the United States reached $1.52 billion dollars. Borrower’s under the age of 39 accounted for nearly 61% of the United States’ total student loan debt.

Age of Student Loan Borrowers In 2017 [Source: FRBNY]

  • Ages 30 and under: 16.8 million
  • Ages 30–39: 12.3 million
  • Ages 40–49:7.3 million
  • Ages 50–59: 5.2 million
  • Ages 60 and above: 3.2 million

Growth of Student Loan Borrowers by Age Over Time [Source: FRBNY]

Since 2004 the total number of student loan borrowers has increased by 95.6%, increasing from 22.9 million borrowers in 2004 to 44.8 million borrowers in 2017. Of the total student loan borrowers the largest growth-by-age was among the 60 and above age group. This group experienced a 433% growth from 600,000 borrowers in 2004 to 3.2 million in 2017.

  • Ages 30 and under: 48.67% growth
  • Ages 30–39: 115.79% growth
  • Ages 40–49: 128.13% growth
  • Ages 50–59: 147.62% growth
  • Ages 60 and above: 433.33% growth

2017 Student Loan Balances by Age Group [Source: FRBNY]

  • Ages 30 and under: 383.8 billion
  • Ages 30–39: 461.0 billion
  • Ages 40–49: 278. Billion
  • Ages 50–59: 177.2 billion
  • Ages 60 and above: 85.4 billion

Growth of Student Loan Balances by Age Group [Source: FRBNY]

The total student loan debt in America has grown 302% from $344.6 billion in 2004 to $1.52 trillion in 2018. The highest growth in student loan balances was among borrowers above the age of 60 with a 1,255% growth from 2004 to 2017.

  • Ages 30 and under: 48.67% growth
  • Ages 30–39: 115.79% growth
  • Ages 40–49: 128.13% growth
  • Ages 50–59: 147.62% growth
  • Ages 60 and above: 433.33% growth

Student Loan Outstanding Balances [Source: FRBNY]

Balance in Q4 2017 Number of Borrowers
Between $1 and $5,000 8,547,500
Between $5,000 and $10,000 7,425,400
Between $10,000 and $25,000 12,277,200
Between $25,000 and $50,000 8,609,700
Between $50,000 and $75,000 3,681,000
Between $75,000 and $100,000 1,612,600
Between $100,000 and $150,000 1,347,400
Between $150,000 and $200,000 604,900
Over $200,000 609,800

Student Loan Debt by State

The cost of education is not the same throughout the United States. As universities are funded on a state level, and the cost of living changes throughout the country, college graduates are coming out financially ahead or behind others depending on their location. [Source: FRBNY]

States With the Most Student Loan Borrowers [Source: FRBNY]

  • California: 3,781,000 borrowers
  • Texas: 2,893,000 borrowers
  • New York: 2,514,000 borrowers
  • Florida: 2,209,000 borrowers
  • Pennsylvania: 1,881,000 borrowers

States With the Highest Average Debt [Source: FRBNY]

  • Maryland: $28,300 average debt per borrower
  • Georgia: $27,600 average debt per borrower
  • New York: $27,300 average debt per borrower
  • Delaware: $27,200 average debt per borrower

States With the Lowest Average Debt [Source: FRBNY]

  • Iowa: $22,200 average debt per borrower
  • Utah: $22,200 average debt per borrower
  • North Dakota: $21,500 average debt per borrower
  • South Dakota: $21,100 average debt per borrower
  • Wyoming: $20,700 average debt per borrower

States With the Highest Delinquency Rates [Source: FRBNY]

  • Mississippi: 25% Delinquency Rate
  • West Virginia: 24.4% Delinquency Rate
  • Louisiana: 23.4% Delinquency Rate
  • Oklahoma: 22.2% Delinquency Rate
  • Nevada: 22% Delinquency Rate

Effects of Student Loan Debt

The effects of student loan debt span into the adult life of graduates entering the workforce. With high monthly loan repayment contributions graduates are delaying the age that they will be able to purchase a home, get married, have children and retire.

  • Home ownership has dropped 21.2% among Americans under 35 since 2009. [Source:]
  • 54% of graduates in debt limit their spending to travel and vacation. [Source: Citizens Financial Group]
  • 44% of 2007–2008 student loan borrowers accepted positions outside of their fields after graduating. [Source: NCES]
  • 11% of undergraduate students believe they will never be able to retire. [Source: Nerdwallet]
  • 2015 graduates are projected to delay retirement until the age of 75 due to student loans. [Source: Nerdwallet]

Graduate Student Loan Debt

Between 2008 and 2012 the median debt of graduate students in America was around $57,600. In 2012 students in the medicine and other health sciences programs were graduating with the highest median debt of $161,772 with law students trailing behind with a median debt of $140,616.

Median Debt Per Graduate Program in 2012

  • Business Administration: $42,000
  • Education Masters: $50,879
  • Master of Arts: $58,539
  • Master of Science: $50,400
  • Other Master’s Degree: $55,489
  • Medicine (MD) & Other Health Science: $161,772
  • Law (LLB or JD): $140,616

[Source: NAEPP]

Percent of Masters Graduates with Debt in 2012

  • Business Administration: 57.%
  • Education Masters: 67.3%
  • Master of Arts: 69.5%
  • Master of Science: 59.3%
  • Other Master’s Degree: 75%
  • Medicine (MD) & Other Health Science: 87%
  • Law (LLB or JD): 86.3%

[Source: NAEPP]

Private Student Loan Debt

Taking out a private loan to pay for education is a route that many college students use to fund school. Unlike Stafford loans that are subsidized by the government, a private loan tends to have a higher interest rate and does not come with any of the benefits of federal loan forgiveness and income-based payment program.

  • 47% of private student loan borrowers from 2011–2012 borrowed less than they could from a Stafford Loan. [Source: TICAS]
  • 45% of private loan borrowers could not have borrowed more with a Stafford loan. [Source: TICAS]
  • 6% of all undergraduates from 2011–2012 borrowed private loans. [Source: TICAS]

Financial Planning for Graduates

As graduates entering the workforce are burdened with student debt there is a growing need to practice careful planning to reach financial goals. Paying off student loans will take priority over contributing to any retirement savings accounts or contributing to saving for future life events.

When it is time to prepare for major financial changes, student loan borrowers should consider a number of resources for lessening the burden of their debt:

Student Loan Refinancing

Student loan refinancing is an option for borrowers who would like a better interest rate, a longer repayment time and a lower minimum monthly payment. Refinancing a student loan is in certain cases beneficial for people falling behind on payments or for those who would like to pay off their debts faster.

Student Loan Consolidation

If a borrowers has multiple student loans or other sources of debt, the loans can be consolidated into one lump sum. When considering debt consolidation it is important to prioritize the financial benefits over any other convenience. For certain borrowers loan consolidation may not be worth it, often bringing higher interest rates and a longer term of repayment.

Student Loans Affect On Credit

Borrowing any large sum of money will have a large impact on your credit score. Your payment history will become a major contributing factor to a credit score which can quickly decline if you get behind on payments. If you are unsure if student loans are having a negative effect on your credit score, you can receive a free credit report summary and consultation to help assess your student loans.