Student loan debt statistics 2024

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Total student loan debt in the U.S. stood at $1.6 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2023, representing 9% of overall household debt. Nearly 46 million Americans hold some federal student loan debt as of the same time. Although student loan repayments were paused for several years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, payments for most resumed in October of 2023. The U.S. Department of Education reported that 40% of borrowers scheduled to resume payments did not make those payments on time.

Key insights

Total student loan borrowing has decreased by more than 35% since hitting a peak in the 2010/11 school year. Total borrowing for the 2022/23 school year was $98.2 billion.

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Students with graduate degrees are more likely to take out student loans and to have balances of at least $25,000. However, they are less likely than other borrowers to be behind on payments.

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Student loan borrowers in Maryland had higher average balances than borrowers in any other state ($42,280). North Dakota had the lowest average student loan balance of any state ($28,921).

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The amount of outstanding federal loan debt fell slightly in 2023, the first year-to-year decrease in the last decade.

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General student loan statistics

While student loan debt has generally been increasing, the amount provided by student loans in the U.S. has actually been on the decline, decreasing by 35.7% between the 2010/11 school year and the 2022/23 school year.

Total provided in student loans by academic year (in billions USD)

Source: Statista

Nevertheless, when student loan repayments resumed in October 2023, the Department of Education reported that only 60% of borrowers had made their payments by mid-November, suggesting that student loan debt remains a significant burden for many.

Student loan debt is most heavily concentrated among borrowers who owe more than $100,000. Although those borrowers comprise only about 7% of the total borrower population, they owe roughly 38% of total outstanding student loan debt. Conversely, 53% of borrowers have balances of $20,000 or less, and their cumulative share of total student loan debt is just over 13%.

Student loan debt demographics

More than 4 in 10 people who go to college take out student loans to pay for that education. Further, data indicates that the higher the level of education, the more likely a student is to take on student loans.

Higher levels of academic achievement also correlate with larger amounts of borrowing.

Despite graduate students being more likely to take out student loans and more likely to have the highest debt burdens, these students are the least likely to report being behind on their student loan payments.

Being behind on student loan payments further correlates to income level, with those earning less than $25,000 annually the most likely to either be behind or in collections for student loan debt.

Student loan debt by state

As of September 2023, Maryland was the state with the highest average student loan debt burden. Student loan borrowers in the state owed $42,280, on average. The only other state where the average loan burden exceeded $40,000 was Georgia, where the average student loan borrower owed $40,804.

The states with the lowest average student loan debt burden per borrower were North Dakota ($28,921), Iowa ($29,943) and South Dakota ($29,975). They represented the only states where the average student loan borrower owed less than $30,000.

How much student debt is still being paid?

According to the office of Federal Student Aid, the total amount of outstanding student loan debt on federal loans was $1.602 trillion in Q4 of 2023. This number had actually fallen from $1.635 trillion at the beginning of the same year.

The drop in total outstanding federal student loan debt arrested a decade of growth. This is perhaps due to student loan forbearance and forgiveness programs enacted during and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not all student loan debt is federal: A private-sector report from 2022 found that 92.78% of the outstanding student loan balance was federal debt, with debts from private loans making up the remaining 7.22% (roughly $127.2 billion).

FAQ

How much is the average student loan debt?

The average student loan debt for a bachelor’s degree recipient was $29,400 for the 2021/22 academic year.

How many people have student loan debt?

As of the fourth quarter of 2023, 45.8 million Americans had some federal student loan debt.

How many borrowers are behind on student loan payments?

The Department of Education suspended data collection on delinquent and defaulted loans during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the department reports that 40% of borrowers were late on their payments when student loan repayment restarted in October of 2023.


References

  1. “Federal Student Aid Portfolio Summary.” U.S. Department of Education, Office of Federal Student Aid. Evaluated April 16, 2024.Link Here
  2. “Private Student Loan Report.” Enterval Analytics, LLC. Evaluated April 16, 2024.Link Here
  3. “Federal Student Aid Portfolio by Loan Type.” U.S. Department of Education, Office of Federal Student Aid. Evaluated April 16, 2024.Link Here
  4. “Economic Well-Being of US Households in 2022 - Higher Education and Student Loans. Federal Reserve.” Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Evaluated April 16, 2024.Link Here
  5. “Federal Student Aid Portfolio by Location.” U.S. Department of Education, Office of Federal Student Aid. Evaluated April 16, 2024.Link Here
  6. Korhonen, V. “Total student loans provided in the U.S. 2001-2023.” Statista. Evaluated April 17, 2024.Link Here
  7. Kvaal, J. “A First Look at Student Repayment After the Payment Pause. US Department of Education.” Evaluated April 17, 2024.Link Here
  8. “Federal Student Aid Portfolio by Debt Size.” U.S. Department of Education, Office of Federal Student Aid. Evaluated April 16, 2024.Link Here
  9. “Household Debt and Credit, 2023:Q4. Federal Reserve Bank of New York.” Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Evaluated April 17, 2024.Link Here
  10. Ma, J., et al. Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid. CollegeBoard. Evaluated April 17, 2024.Link Here
  11. “Federal Student Aid Portfolio by Delinquency Status.” U.S. Department of Education, Office of Federal Student Aid. Evaluated April 17, 2024.Link Here

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