Breakdown of Student Loan Debt in the U.S.

Loan amounts and monthly payments are increasing

College graduates in a circle tossing their mortarboard caps into the air


Matthew Borkoski Photography / Photolibrary / Getty Images

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 likely will 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.

Despite the high price tag of going to college, it often is necessary to be competitive in the job market. The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce estimated 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 probable that student loan debt will continue to increase.

Student Loan Debt

More than two-thirds of college students graduate with a large amount of student loan debt, and one in four American adults are paying off student loans.

Among 2018 graduates, 69% took out loans and graduated with an average of $29,800 in debt, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In addition, 14% of those students' parents took out another $35,600 in loans, on average.

Borrowers numbered 44.2 million and owed $1.5 trillion in student loan debt in the United States, as of the end of the fourth quarter of 2018, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve. In the first quarter of 2008, a little more than a decade 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.

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

Monthly student loan payments also have increased. The Federal Reserve estimates that monthly student loan payments have increased from $227 in 2005 to $393 in 2016. The median amount of payments, as of 2016, was $222 per month.

Older Americans and Student Loan Debt

The number of people age 60 and older with student loan debt has quadrupled over the last 10 years, growing from 700,000 to 2.8 million, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). 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.

Many have student loans because they're helping finance their children's and grandchildren's college educations. The CFPB estimates that more than 57 percent 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 more than 90 days delinquent or in default, according to the 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.

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, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

Delinquency rates based on degree status include:

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

Delinquency rates based on the total amount of outstanding student loan debt include:

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

Where Student Loan Debt Is the Highest

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau breaks down student loan debt by state. The top 10 states make up more than half the amount of total outstanding student loan debt:

States With the Most Student Loan Debt
State Amount (in billions)
California $129.6
Texas $94.5
New York $86.5
Florida $79.7
Pennsylvania $61.8
Ohio $57.6
Illinois $56.8
Georgia $53.0
Michigan $44.5
New Jersey $41.6
Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2017
States With the Least Student Loan Debt
State Amount (in billions)
Wyoming $1.5
Alaska $2.0
Vermont $2.8
North Dakota $2.9
South Dakota $3.3
Montana $3.4
Hawaii $3.5
Delaware $4.2
Rhode Island $4.3
Maine $5.9
Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2017
States With the Highest Average Debt per Student
State Percent of residents with debt Amount
Connecticut 57 $38,510
Pennsylvania 67 $36,854
Rhode Island 64 $36,520
New Hampshire 74 $34,415
Delaware 62 $34,144
New Jersey 61 $32,247
Massachusetts 59 $32,065
Alabama 50 $31,899
Minnesota 68 $31,734
Maine 56 $31,364
Source: The Institute for College Access and Success, 2017
States With the Lowest Average Debt per Student
State Percent of residents with debt Amount
Utah 38 $18,838
New Mexico 54 $21,237
Nevada 49 $22,064
Wyoming 47 $22,524
California 50 $22,785
Washington 52 $23,936
Arizona 54 $23,967
Florida 50 $24,041
Hawaii 49 $25,125
Tennessee 56 $25,252
Source: The Institute for College Access and Success, 2017