Average Student Loan Debt in America: 2018 Facts & Figures

The average student debt in the United States is $32,731, while the median student loan debt amount is $17,000. With the rising costs of tuition and total student loan debt up around 302% since 2004, we decided to break down the data to get a better understanding the different levels of student loan debt across different types of borrowers.

Quick Student Loan Debt Statistics

  • Average student loan debt per borrower: $32,731
  • Total student loan debt: $1.52 trillion
  • Number of student loan borrowers: 44.7 million
  • New Hampshire has the highest student loan debt for the Class of 2016 at $36,367
  • Student loan debt for borrowers 60 and over has increased by 1,256% from 2004

Average Student Loan Debt in The United States

The average college debt among student loan borrowers in America is $32,731, according to the Federal Reserve. This is an increase of approximately 20% from 2015-2016. Most borrowers have between $25,000 and $50,000 outstanding in student loan debt. But more than 600,000 borrowers in the country are over $200,000 in student debt, and that number may continue to increase.

Bar Chart showing the distribution of Student Loan Borrowers by Balance

In total, the student loan debt outstanding in the country was $346 billion in 2004, and has ballooned to $1,386 billion as of late 2017. This represents a 302% increase in the total student loan debt in just 13 years. On average, the total student loan balance has increased by $80 billion each year since 2004.

YearTotal BalanceYear-Over-Year Change
2004$345 billion-
2005$391 billion13%
2006$481 billion23%
2007$547 billion14%
2008$639 billion17%
2009$721 billion13%
2010$811 billion13%
2011$873 billion8%
2012$965 billion11%
2013$1,079 billion12%
2014$1,155 billion7%
2015$1,231 billion7%
2016$1,316 billion7%
2017$1,386 billion5%

Average Student Loan Debt By State

  • New Hampshire has the highest average student loan debt for the Class of 2016 at $36,367.
  • Utah has the lowest average student loan debt balance at $19,975 and the lowest percentage of residents with student loan debt, 43%.
  • 77% of West Virginians from the Class of 2016 have student loan debt, with an average of $27,708.

According to data from The Institute for College Access and Success, the average student loan debt in each state for the class of 2016 ranges from $19,975 to $36,367. And in almost every state, 50% or more students are in debt, besides Alaska, Arizona, Wyoming and Oklahoma. The table below shows the average college debt by state with their corresponding rank based on their average debt.

RankState% of Residents with DebtAverage Debt
9Alabama50%$31,275
40Alaska49%$26,008
47Arizona49%$23,447
35Arkansas56%$26,859
48California53%$22,744
37Colorado53%$26,520
3Connecticut60%$35,494
4Delaware63%$33,838
12District of Columbia53%$31,054
45Florida52%$24,461
28Georgia60%$27,657
39Hawaii50%$26,092
33Idaho66%$27,130
23Illinois61%$29,271
20Indiana59%$29,562
19Iowa65%$29,801
25Kansas61%$28,776
24Kentucky63%$28,910
32Louisiana50%$27,138
8Maine55%$31,295
30Maryland54%$27,455
6Massachusetts60%$31,563
13Michigan63%$30,852
5Minnesota68%$31,915
21Mississippi60%$29,384
29Missouri57%$27,532
11Montana60%$31,065
36Nebraska61%$26,585
46Nevada52%$24,128
1New Hampshire74%$36,367
18New Jersey61%$29,878
49New Mexico55%$21,373
15New York58%$30,346
42North Carolina58%$25,562
51North Dakota*--
14Ohio64%$30,351
41Oklahoma50%$25,856
31Oregon58%$27,321
2Pennsylvania68%$35,759
10Rhode Island61%$31,217
16South Carolina60%$30,123
7South Dakota75%$31,362
34Tennessee60%$26,981
38Texas56%$26,292
50Utah43%$19,975
26Vermont63%$28,662
22Virginia56%$29,296
44Washington53%$24,609
27West Virginia77%$27,708
17Wisconsin67%$30,059
43Wyoming45%$25,378

*Not enough useable data to calculate averages.

Average Student Loan Debt by Age

  • Student loan debt for borrowers 60 and over has increased by 1,256% since 2004, when borrowers in the age bracket had only $6.3 billion in college debt.
  • Although there are more student loan borrowers under 30, borrowers between the ages of 30 and 39 have the most student loan debt outstanding.
  • Borrowers under 30 accounted for the most student loan debt outstanding until 2014 when it switched to those between 30 and 39.

Looking at the age group breakdowns from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, there are more borrowers under 30 years of age than there are in any other age bracket. Interestingly from a percentage growth standpoint, the number of borrowers under 30 has not increased much over the last 13 years as it has for the other age groups.

Chart Showing the Distribution of Student Loan Borrowers by Age

Since 2004, student loan balances across all age groups have increased on average by 302%. The most drastic percentage increase was seen by borrowers over 60 years of age, with a whopping 1,256% student loan balance increase—from $6.3 billion to $85.4 billion—in only 13 years. However, the majority of outstanding student loan balances are held by borrowers in their 20s and 30s, accounting for almost 65% of all student loan debt.

YearUnder 30 (billions)30-39 (billions)40-49 (billions)50-59 (billions)60+ (billions)
2004$147.8$112.3$48.7$29.5$6.3
2005$162.4$127.6$56.4$36.4$8.2
2006$196.3$154.8$69.8$48.2$12.2
2007$219.8$174.5$80.0$56.4$15.9
2008$250.9$205.4$94.4$67.6$20.4
2009$275.9$232.2$109.0$78.5$25.3
2010$301.2$261.2$128.5$89.6$30.8
2011$316.4$282.0$141.7$97.0$35.4
2012$322.7$320.2$167.3$111.3$43.0
2013$362.0$354.1$188.1$124.9$49.8
2014$370.5$383.1$207.6$136.5$57.7
2015$376.4$408.4$229.6$149.7$66.7
2016$383.2$437.4$255.6$163.2$76.3
2017$383.8$461.0$278.9$177.2$85.4

Average Student Loan Debt by Gender and Race

  • Student loan debt balances for African-American women take up 111% of their first-year income.
  • Women, in general, have to use a higher percentage of their income to pay student loan debt than men.
  • Asian men have the lowest percentage of student loan debt, with their college debt only taking up 65% of their first-year income.

To further our analysis, we took a look at how much student loan debt payments are eating into borrowers’ paychecks after college. This is calculated by taking a person's total student loan debt and dividing that value by their annual income one year post-graduation. On average, student debt balances of African-Americans take up the largest percentage of their first-year income, while Asian-Americans have the lowest percentage.

Chart Showing Student Loan Debt as a Percentage of First-Year Income

Federal Student Loan Debt

  • The majority of students (29.5 million borrowers) take out direct loans, specifically Stafford subsidized loans from the federal government.
  • However, there is a difference of $200.2 billion more outstanding for Stafford unsubsidized loans than its subsidized counterpart.
  • The loan type with most total debt outstanding is consolidation loans—with $495.9 billion outstanding for only 11.9 million borrowers.

The majority of student loan borrowers take out loans from the federal government, with a total of 42.6 million borrowers that have $1,407.1 billion outstanding in student loan debt. Direct loans make up most of that debt, since it includes subsidized, unsubsidized, PLUS and consolidation loans, which we break down in the next table.

Federal Student Debt By Loan Program

Loan TypeDollars OutstandingNumber of Borrowers
Direct Loans$1,104.0 billion33.4 million
FFEL Loans$295.5 billion14.2 million
Perkins Loans$7.6 billion2.5 million
Total*$1,407.1 billion42.6 million

*Totals may not equal the sum of Direct Loans, FFEL and Perkins Loans due to the timing of the data runs.

Subsidized and unsubsidized federal student loans account for the bulk of debt outstanding with $753 billion of debt combined. However, consolidation loans have the most dollars outstanding compared to all other federal loan types but have much fewer borrowers than subsidized and unsubsidized federal loans.

Federal Student Debt By Loan Type

Loan TypeDollars OutstandingNumber of Borrowers
Stafford subsidized$276.4 billion29.5 million
Stafford unsubsidized$476.6 billion28.3 million
Stafford combined$753.0 billion32.9 million*
Grad PLUS$62.8 billion1.2 million
Parent PLUS$87.7 billion3.5 million
Perkins$7.6 billion2.5 million
Consolidation$495.9 billion11.9 million

*Unique borrowers

Private Student Loan Debt

  • The total private student loan debt outstanding for both undergraduates and graduates is $113.2 billion (Q3 2017).
  • Private student loan debt has increased by more than 20% since 2014.
  • The percentage of the total outstanding balance from private student lenders is increasing for undergraduates each year.

Private student loan debt has increased each year since 2014, with more students having to take out student loans from private lenders. In just three years, the private student loan debt outstanding has increased by $21.4 billion.

Private Student Loan Debt by Year

YearDollars Outstanding
2014$91.8 billion
2015$99.7 billion
2016$102.3 billion
2017$113.2 billion

Undergraduate debt makes up most of the total private student loan debt outstanding, and that percentage has been increasing consistently since 2009. As shown by the graph below, graduate students make up less than 15% of private college debt in the country.

Private Student Debt Balance by Degree Type

Chart Showing the Percentage of Current Student Loan Debt Outstanding by Degree

Sources:

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