Breakdown of Student Loan Debt in the U.S.

Graduates tossing their caps into the air


© Matthew Borkoski Photography / Photolibrary / Getty

If you think you’re the only one struggling with student loan payments, think again. Americans hold an alarming amount of student loan debt and with tuition prices increasing each year, that amount will likely continue growing. Student loan debt is the second biggest source of household debt, following mortgages. On an individual basis, Americans have more student loan debt than credit card or auto loan debt.

Student Loan Debt

70% of college students graduate with a large amount of student loan debt and one in four American adults are paying off student loans.

44.2 million borrowers owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt in the United States. In the first quarter of 2008, just ten years ago, the amount of outstanding student loan debt stood at $619 billion, which means student loan debt is only a few billion dollars away from tripling over the past decade. - St. Louis Federal Reserve

Student loan borrowers in Gen X age group had the highest average outstanding student loan debt in 2017 with almost $40,000 in student loans. - Experian

The following graph illustrates the difference in student loan debt on a generational basis:

  • Gen Z - $11,830
  • Millennials - $33,579
  • Gen X - $39,809
  • Baby Boomers - $35,246
  • Silent Generation - $26,341

Student Loan Payments

Monthly student loan payments have also increased. The Federal Reserve (Bank of Cleveland) estimates that the monthly student loan payments have increased from $227 in 2005 to $393 in 2016. - Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

Older Americans and Student Loan Debt

The number of people age 60 and older with debt loan debt has quadrupled over the last 10 years, growing from 700,000 to 2.8 million. In 2015, consumers over age 60 owed $66.7 billion in student loans. This demographic represents the fastest growing age-segment of student loan borrowers. - Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Not all seniors are taking on student loan debt to fund their own education. Many have student loans because they're helping finance their children and grandchildren's college education. The CFPB estimates that over 57% of co-signers are age 55 and older.

Student Loan Delinquency Rates

As of the first quarter of 2018, 10.7% of student loan debt is 90+ days delinquency or in default, a slight drop from the previous quarter. - New York Federal Reserve

While student loan debt is increasing, delinquency rates are falling, which is a good thing. The drop in delinquency rates could be credited to improved employment rates or willingness of lenders to work out flexible repayment plans with borrowers.

Most Likely to Be Delinquent

Of the borrowers who are delinquent, those who haven't completed a college degree are more likely to be behind on payments than those who have a bachelor's or graduate degree. -Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

  • 34% of people who've completed just some college, a certificate, or a technical degree are behind on their payments.
  • 13% of people who completed an associate's degree are behind.
  • 11% of those who completed a bachelor's degree are behind.
  • 3% of those with a graduate degree are behind.

Most people would assume that people with the most student loan debt are more frequently behind on payments. That's not the case according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

  • 19% of people with less than $10,000 of outstanding debt are behind on payments.
  • 20% of those with between $10,000 and $25,000 are behind.
  • 8% of those with $100,000 or more in student loan debt are behind.

Where Student Loan Debt Is the Highest

The states with the highest amount of outstanding student loan debt, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The top ten states make up more than half the amount of total outstanding student loan debt:

  • California - $129.6 billion
  • Texas - $94.49 billion
  • New York - $86.54 billion
  • Florida - $79.69 billion
  • Pennsylvania - $61.83 billion
  • Ohio - $57.61 billion
  • Illinois - $56.79 billion
  • Georgia - $ 53.03 billion
  • Michigan - $44.55 billion
  • New Jersey - $41.67 billion

States With the Lowest Amount of Student Loan Debt

  • Wyoming - $1.53 billion
  • Alaska - $2.03 billion
  • Vermont - $2.8 billion
  • North Dakota - $2.93 billion
  • South Dakota - $3.34 billion
  • Montana - $3.44 billion
  • Hawaii - $3.55 billion
  • Delaware - $4.21 billion
  • Rhode Island - $4.37 billion
  • Maine - $5.9 billion

Despite the high price tag of going to college, it isn’t an option. The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce estimates that 65% of all jobs in the American Economy will require postsecondary education by the year 2020. Based on the increased educational requirements for jobs and increasing tuition amounts, it's likely that student loan debt will continue to increase unless state or federal policies are created to provide additional funding for students.