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Student loan debt statistics

Students taking a test in a classroom

There is currently more than $1.76 trillion in outstanding student loan debt in the United States, with more than 42 million Americans currently holding federal student loans.

Paying for college isn’t getting easier, and student debt can impede borrowers’ ability to buy homes, get married or expand families. However, there are options out there that can ease the burden of student debt, including refinancing your loan to get a lower monthly rate, as well as temporary loan deferment or forbearance if you are struggling to make payments.

Here’s a breakdown of student loan debt with the most recent figures and how you can tackle it.

How much student loan debt is there?

While student debt is definitely a crisis in the U.S, the annual growth rate of national student debt is actually starting to slow down. According to a report from the Education Data Initiative, total national student debt only increased by 1.53 percent during the second quarter of 2022. Additionally, student debt has fallen by $10 billion since last year while other forms of consumer lending have increased. This is likely due, at least in part, to the ongoing student loan payment pause.

Despite this slight decline, student loan debt remains the second largest form of consumer lending debt in the U.S. There are currently 42.8 million borrowers in the U.S. with student loan debt, with total outstanding federal loan debt reaching $1.617 trillion.

Key student loan debt statistics


  • 42.8 million Americans have federal student debt.

  • In total, the U.S. has $1.76 trillion in outstanding student debt.

  • The average undergraduate borrower has $37,787 in student loan debt.

  • Student loans are the second-largest type of consumer debt, falling behind mortgage debt.

  • 92.7 percent of student loan debt is federal, while 7.3 percent is private.

  • 30 percent of undergraduate students and 66 percent of graduate students borrow federal student loans.

  • Private student loans only account for 8.4 percent of outstanding student loan debt.

  • Student loan debt accounts for 9.5 percent of national consumer debt and is the second largest form of consumer debt behind mortgages, which account for 70.7 percent of the total.

  • Paying off student loans can take anywhere from 10 to 30 years

Nearly 60 percent of U.S. adults with student loans have put off important financial decisions due to student debt

The U.S. student debt crisis

College costs continue to rise, causing borrowers to graduate with thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Data from the Federal Reserve shows that the total outstanding student loan debt has increased by roughly 84 percent since 2011.


Total outstanding student debt (in millions)























2022 (YTD)


The largest form of consumer debt in the U.S. is mortgage debt at $11.99 trillion in the third quarter of 2022. Student debt is the second largest form of consumer debt, followed by auto debt.

Here is a comparison of student debt and auto debt in the past 10 years:

Student loan debt and the CARES Act

The CARES Act was implemented as a way to alleviate the financial strain of the pandemic. One of the provisions was a pause on federal student loan payments and collections activities, which is currently in place.

The most recent report from the U.S. Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) found that as of March 2022:

  • Nearly 25 million Direct Loan borrowers are in forbearance status, with more than 99 percent of those balances in the CARES Act forbearance.

  • Roughly $1 trillion of Direct Loans are in forbearance status.

  • Fewer than 500,000 Direct Loan borrowers are in repayment status, opting out of the CARES Act flexibilities.

Individual student loan debt statistics


Here’s how student loan debt in the U.S. impacts individual borrowers:

  • The age group with the most student loan borrowers is the 25 to 34 age bracket, while 7.3 million borrowers are 24 years old or younger.

  • In the class of 2021, 54 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients graduated with student loan debt.

  • Residents of Washington D.C., Maryland and Georgia have the highest student loan debt in the country, with the average student loan debt exceeding $40,000 in all three states.

  • As of March 2022, 33 percent of borrowers owed less than $10,000 in federal student loans, and 21 percent owed between $10,000 and $20,000.

  • The average estimated budget for undergraduates for the 2022-23 school year was $19,230 for public two-year in-district students, $27,940 for public four-year in-state students, $45,240 for public four-year out-of-state students and $57,570 for private nonprofit four-year students.

Student debt and mental health

Student loan debt can have a significant impact on a borrower’s mental health. Feelings of anxiety and stress may coincide with any long-term debt, especially if the debt impedes the ability to meet important financial milestones, like saving for a house or buying a car.

Federal student loan debt statistics

Federal student loans are offered by the U.S. Department of Education rather than private lenders. They’re a good first choice for any student considering student loans, and they comprise more than 90 percent of the U.S. student debt portfolio.

Student loan debt by loan type

All new loans originated by the federal government are part of the Direct Loan program: Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, grad PLUS loans, parent PLUS loans and Direct Consolidation Loans. Because of this, Direct Loans make up the greatest portion of the federal student loan portfolio. However, there are still borrowers who are paying off older Perkins or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans.

Here’s how total loan amounts have changed for each loan type in the past three years:

Direct Subsidized (in billions)

Direct Unsubsidized (in billions)

Grad PLUS (in billions)

Parent PLUS (in billions)

Perkins (in billions)

Consolidation (in billions)









































































Student loan debt by state

The three states with the lowest student debt per borrower are North Dakota, Iowa and South Dakota; in each of these states, the average student debt per borrower comes in at less than $31,000. The three states with the highest student debt per borrower are Maryland, Georgia and Virginia, where the average debt per student is near or above $40,000. Washington, D.C., has the highest average debt per student overall at $54,945.

The chart below summarizes each state’s total federal student loan balance, the number of borrowers and the average federal student debt per borrower as of Dec. 31, 2021.

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Private student loan debt statistics

Private student loans are offered by online lenders, banks and credit unions. While private student loans should only be taken out once federal aid potential has been exhausted, they still account for almost a tenth of student loan debt in America. Here’s how private student loans contribute to the overall levels of student debt in the U.S., according to data from the Education Data Initiative:

  • The total outstanding private loan debt balance as of 2022 was more than $140 billion, or 8.4 percent of the total student loan debt in the U.S.

  • Undergraduate loans made up 88.5 percent of this total number, while graduate loans made up 11.5 percent.

  • Less than 2 percent of private student loans defaulted in the fourth quarter of 2021.

  • 13 percent of students use private student loans.

Student loan debt by degree

Advanced degrees are expensive, but the investment could pay off. Here’s what you need to know before taking out graduate student loans:

  • Graduate students account for 46.7 percent of federal student loan debt

  • The average debt for those with Master’s degrees is $80,494

  • The average debt for those with PhDs is $132,268

  • 66 percent of graduate students borrow federal loans

  • Those who earn an advanced degree may earn a larger annual income and have increased job security.

  • Graduate students are less likely to fall into delinquency with private loans; only 0.9 percent of private graduate student debt is in default.