Finder makes money from featured partners, but editorial opinions are our own. Advertiser disclosure

Student loan debt statistics

Students preparing to graduate are well aware that degrees come with a hefty price tag. But just how much student debt are Americans taking on?

Student loan debt currently sits at $1.73 trillion as of the fourth quarter of 2023, according to the Federal Reserve. With roughly 45.7 million Americans carrying student loan debt, multiple generations of graduates are affected.

Only about a decade ago, students left college with about $26,268 in loans. In 2023, the average student debt has tacked on an extra $10,820 for a total of $37,088 — a 41% increase. Let’s dig into the data.

The latest student loan debt data at a glance

  • The US currently owes approximately $1.6 trillion in federal student loan debt.
  • The US currently owes approximately $125 billion private student loan debt.
  • The US currently owes approximately $1.73 trillion student loan debt.
  • Roughly 43.2 million adults have a federal student loan.
  • There are about 3.1 million private student loan borrowers.
  • A total of approximately 46.3 million American adults have a student loan.
  • The average federal student loan balance is $37,088.

Total student loan debt in the United States

Currently, the nation’s student debt balance sits at $1.73 trillion and is the 3rd largest type of debt in the United States. See our graph and table below to see how the country’s student loan debt has gradually ballooned over the years.

Why do we need student loans?

Student loans are designed to help future graduates tackle the costs of tuition, living expenses and everyday life so they can focus on putting their pencils to paper in school.

You can typically put student loans toward any education-related expense:

  • Tuition and fees
  • Dorms or other housing
  • Transportation
  • Books and supplies
  • Meals and groceries

Changes to federal student loan interest rates

Federal student loan rates change on July 1 of every year. This year, they’re going up. Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans for undergraduate students issued between July 1, 2023 and July, 1, 2024 will come with an interest rate of 5.5% — up from 4.99%.

Direct unsubsidized loans for graduate and professional students came with a 7.05% interest rate, while Direct PLUS loans had a 8.05% interest rate.

How much are people borrowing for a degree?

Among all totals borrowed, students are taking out a range of loan amounts to meet their educational needs. The largest group, comprising more than 18 million people, borrows $20K to 40K. Amazingly, 1 million people are borrowing more than $200,000.

Student loan debt by age

Those aged 25 to 34 are the most likely to be carrying student loan debt, with roughly 15 million adults having an outstanding loan.

However, those aged 35 to 49 owe the most for their student loan debt, with 14.6 million people owning a collective $624.4 billion — roughly $42,767 per person. That being said, on a per-person basis, it’s those aged 50 to 61 who owe the mosts at $44,206.

Student loan delinquency over time

Since 2001, the percentage of student loan debt in serious delinquency, i.e. debts that are 90+ days delinquent, sat at 8.21% until the Government introduced administrative forbearance on March 13, 2020, until Sept. 1, 2023 in response to COVID-19. The current percentage of loans in serious delinquency sits at 0.6%.

What is going to happen when repayments restart?

There was some hope that the Government might cancel student loan debt all together. That isn’t going to happen. Student loans began to accruing interest again in September, 2023 and repayments restarted in October, 2023. In an October 2023 survey, roughly 23% said that they needed to cut back on their spending significantly to make their student loan payments. A further 22% said they wouldn’t be able to afford their repayments at all.

The study also found that 16% of those surveyed said they flat out don’t plan on making their payments when they resume.

More guides on Finder

Ask a Question

Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and finder.com Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Go to site