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Student loans account for 36.35% of non-housing debt

Here's why we should be worried.

Key findings

    • Student loan debt as of December 2018 is up a whopping 127.91% since December 2008, from $0.64 trillion to $1.457 trillion.
    • Student loans make up 10.76% of all household debt.
    • Since 2008, student loan debt as a percentage of household debt has more than doubled, up from 5.05% in 2008 to 10.76% in 2018.
    • Student loans account for 36.35% of non-housing debt.
    • 11.42% of student loans are 90+ days delinquent as of December 2018.
    • These delinquent student debts hit a record high of $166.39 billion, beating the record set in the previous quarter of $166.26 billion.
    • Student loan delinquency rates are much higher than those for mortgages.

Student loan debt doubles over last decade

A analysis of Federal Reserve Bank data reveals that student loan debt has more than doubled between December 2008 and December 2018, up 127.91% from $0.64 trillion to $1.457 trillion. If student loan debt continues at this pace, it’ll hit $3.32 trillion by 2028 and $7.56 trillion by 2038.


Note that projections are based on historical growth and not adjusted for increased financial aid and grants, government adjustments for more affordable rates or other interventions.

Student loan debt taking more and more of the household budget

Since the October to December quarter of 2008, most types of household debt have either remained steady or decreased over the last 10 years. For example, in 2008 mortgages accounted for 73.06% of household debt and in 2018 that figure has dropped to 67.36%. Credit cards, revolving home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) and other debts all saw their proportion of household debt fall over the last 10 years.

However, two loan types — auto loans and student loans — saw their piece of the household budget increase, with the percentage taken up by student loans more than doubling in 10 years, up from 5.05% to 10.76%.

Student loans also represent more than a third — 36.35% — of all non-housing debt.

Delinquent debt totals more than $166 billion

As student loan debt continues to rise, so too does the number of delinquent debts. The last three quarters of 2018 all set new records for the amount of outstanding student loan debt that was delinquent by 90 days or more. The June quarter hit $153.7 billion, the September quarter jumped to $166.26 billion and it culminated at $166.39 billion in the December quarter.

Student loan debt tougher to pay off than other forms of debt

As of December 2018, 11.42% of student loans are 90+ days delinquent, a trend that’s persisted since the third quarter of 2012 — with delinquency rates hovering around 11%. This figure is almost 10 times higher than that for housing-related debts like revolving HELOCs and mortgages, about two and a half times the rate for auto loans and about one and a half times the rate for credit cards and other forms of debt.

Concerned about student loans? 3 tips to stay on top of your debt

  1. Don’t borrow more than you need. Avoid unnecessary interest and higher payments by only borrowing what you need to cover your educational expenses and always compare student loan options, ensuring you get the right one for your unique financial situation.
  2. Plan for a future with student loans. Whether you already have a job or you’re getting ready to start one, be sure to factor student loan payments into your budget.
  3. Consider refinancing. If you’re struggling to make repayments, paying off a student loan through a new lender can help you save down the road. While it won’t lower your debt, it could potentially lower your interest rate or give you more affordable monthly repayments.

If you’re one of the many Americans with student loan debt, consider looking into whether you can benefit from student loan refinancing. You might find you’re paying higher rates on your current loan than other lenders offer. Before making any changes, always make sure to read the terms and conditions to ensure it’s a right financial fit for you.

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For all media inquiries, please contact:

Richard Laycock, Insights editor and senior content marketing manager


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Richard Laycock's headshot
Senior editorial manager

Richard Laycock is Finder’s NYC-based senior content marketing manager & insights editor, spending the last decade data diving, writing and editing articles about all things personal finance. His musings can be found across the web including on NASDAQ, MoneyMag, Yahoo Finance and Travel Weekly. Richard studied Media at Macquarie University, including a semester abroad at The Missouri School of Journalism (MIZZOU). See full bio

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