19 Daunting Student Debt Statistics for 2023
Updated · May 20, 2023
Learning new things has never been easier now that we have the internet and all this immense knowledge at our disposal. Official education, however, is perhaps getting farther and farther away from the grasp of the average person. One only needs to consider the most recent student debt statistics to see why this is the case.
College has always had this great importance in a young person’s life and career with its aura of fun, carefree life, full of opportunities and knowledge.
But in the modern day and age, college also became just a lot more stressful due to major student loan debt that is becoming the only way for millions of students to obtain quality, formal education
Let’s see what exactly is the case:
Essential Student Debt Statistics (Editor’s Choice)
- American students and graduates have accumulated debt of $1.7 trillion.
- Up to 65% of US students borrow money for their studies.
- Average student debt in the US is $37,693.
- UK students have even more debt—close to $60,000 on average.
- More than 45 million Americans have student loan debt.
- Each year, around $100 million is added to the total debt of students in the US.
- Elisha Bookman has the largest student debt—$500,000.
Average Student Loan Debt
A logical place to start is with some general student loan debt statistics. Here, we’ll focus on those about the US but also give some international stats as a comparison.
1. American students owe $1.7 trillion in total.
One of the most important student loan facts is that it practically hits new records each year. In 2021, student loan debt in the US totalled $1.7 trillion, and there are no signs of slowing down. As a comparison, in 2011, it was $905 billion.
2. Americans who study in public colleges owe $29,100 on average.
The average student loan debt in the US for those who study in private nonprofit colleges is $34,400. This is somewhat higher compared to public universities, though people studying in private for profit institutions still have the biggest average debt—$44,600.
These are the most recent student loan statistics coming from National Center for Education Statistics, which is the government organization handling research into the US educational system. The stats come from the 2015-2016 period. We can surely find more current ones, but they are not as authoritative nor representative of the whole picture as those issued by government organizations.
3. Total average student debt is almost $40,000.
According to Forbes, total average student debt (that is, including federal and private loans) is $37,693.
4. The Federal Reserve says that over 50% of students take loans.
(Source: Federal Reserve)
The situation is in fact a little bit more complicated:
- 75% of students aged 18 to 29 have taken loans for financing their education (graduate degree).
- 64% of those aged 30-44 and 60% of those between 45-59 (who have already graduated) are still repaying their student loans.
- People who graduated a while ago (aged 60+) are more likely to have paid off their loans or to have never taken a loan in the first place (36%).
It’s important to note that there are many ways for students to go into debt—student loans coming from various federal and state institutions are only the most usual and straightforward option. A considerable number of students also use credit cards to finance their studies, 25% to be exact.
5. Around 30% of students with loans are not required to make any payments while in college.
(Source: Federal Reserve)
Payment deferments make it easier for student debt in the US to be controlled and significantly alleviate the financial pressure felt by American students. However, a majority (over 60%) have to make at least some sort of payment while they are studying, which can be a challenge.
6. A student from the UK managed to amass a whopping $253,000 debt.
(Source: The Guardian)
The UK also has very expensive tuition fees—the cost of studying at a university, be it public or private, is quite high and inaccessible. Moreover, the UK also has some very prestigious and pricey universities, which all adds up to make the situation for aspiring adolescents a bit dire.
7. Average student-borrower in the UK owes $60,000.
(Source: Commons Library Parliament)
When we look at it this way, people in the US have it easy! The Guardian covered the story of Craig Rossiter, which perhaps shows us one type of problem that contributes to the perpetuation of student loans. Namely, Craig Rossiter dropped out of five universities in the UK, amassing $81,000 of debt in the process. Craig struggled with depression and substance abuse and eventually had to give up education to find a full-time job and support his family.
So one of the most important student loan debt facts is that this only starts to become a problem when the educational system fails to produce the type of workforce for which the loans were taken in the first place. Unfortunately, as the case of Craig Rossiter shows, universities don’t always “produce” a highly-skilled workforce.
8. China allows its students to take up to $10,000 worth of loans.
(Source: English Gov Cn)
Education in China is increasingly capitalized—there’s now only a semblance of the great communist promises of free education. In fact, Chinese education is also pretty expensive with prices likely to increase even more in the future.
A lot of parents take so-called school loans, in order to pay for high school tuition fees that can go well over $40,000, for private high schools at least. Education up to middle school can be free, but all high schools, including public ones, have tuition fees.
For instance, one of the most popular high schools in Beijing costs around $8,000 per year!
9. The concept of student loan debt is practically unheard of in France, with only about 2% of French students being in one.
Higher education in France is rather accessible and students don’t normally take loans, at least not of the type that is so painfully familiar to most American students.
10. Student debt in the US is steadily increasing at a rate of around $100 million per year!
(Source: FRED Economic Research)
Back in Q1 2007, it was only around $540 million. By Q1 2013, it reached $1 trillion. This is a typical linear growth and we’ll have to see if the shape of the curve will change in the years to come.
11. People in the District of Columbia are the biggest borrowers and debtors—$51,000 on average.
(Source: Yahoo Finance)
DC. has some popular (and pricey) universities like Georgetown University, Trinity, George Washington University. It is followed by Delaware ($50,000 average debt), Connecticut ($47,000), Vermont ($45,000), New Hampshire ($45,000), Rhode Island ($44,500), Massachusetts ($43,000), Pennsylvania ($42,300), New York ($40,000), and Alabama ($40,000).
The least indebted students live in the following states: New Mexico ($13,500), Alaska ($15,000), Utah ($20,000), and Idaho ($21,500). There are several reasons why these states have relatively little student debt. First of all, their universities aren’t exactly what we would call popular. People would rather move to another state than study at their hometown university which isn’t really that well-known. Moreover, they don’t have large populations in the first place—there simply aren’t that many people who will pursue higher education in places like Idaho or Alaska.
Federal Student Loan Debt
There are two main types of ways for students to go into debt—federal or private funds. Let’s see what the first one entails.
12. There are around 45 million federal student loan borrowers.
A great majority of student debt holders have federal loans. Some also have private loans, which will be discussed in the next section. For the time being, suffice it to say that federal loans are by far the first choice of American students.
13. Federal student loans in the US have fairly low interest rates—3.7% for undergraduate students.
(Source: Student Aid.gov)
One of the perks of federal loans is that they have lower interest rates compared to private ones. Moreover, the US government has issued a variety of COVID-19 economic measures, with a few important ones concerning federal loans. The Biden administration paused student loan payments and reduced the interest rate to 0%!
14. Average federal student loan debt is $36,510.
This is very close to the average of combined private and federal loans, which shows that federal funds are much more important than private ones in financing the education of young Americans.
Private Student Loan Debt Statistics
While state funds are the most helpful when it comes to financing higher education in the US, it’s also possible to take private loans, which are more like your typical bank credit, to do so.
15. Private student loan interest rates can go well above 10%.
This is one of the reasons why private student loans aren’t really that popular and thus, private funds not contributing significantly to the total amount of college debt.
We have to be careful not to confuse average student debt in private universities with private loans—they are two distinct concepts, as you can finance a private college with both federal and private funds.
16. There are around 2.4 million American students with private loans.
This is not an insignificant number, but obviously young people in America are more inclined to take federal loans. It’s safe to say that private loans are more “ruthless” and more akin to your typical bank credit.
Student Loan Repayment Statistics
It certainly takes a while for students to repay their debt—indeed, some never manage to do so, while others are somewhat more successful in repaying the debt they accumulated during their university years.
17. Average student loan payment period is 20 years.
It’s hard to tell the exact average, but according to a few studies with a combined sample of more than 62,000 respondents, we can assume that the average American student loan debt repayment period is 20 years.
18. Standard federal plans predict a 10-year repayment period.
(Source: Student Aid.gov)
We should emphasize that this is really the ideal scenario predicted. However, most students probably need more time to repay the funds they borrowed. The federal plan for repayment states that a fixed amount of at least $50 should be paid each month. Moreover, it also allows for the repayment period for consolidation loans to be prolonged up to 30 years.
19. Average monthly student loan repayment is around $393.
(Source: Finance Yahoo)
Keep in mind that the median is closer to $200, which means that most students actually pay less than $393. It’s just that there is a significant number of those with very high loans that “drag” the average towards higher values.
20. With almost $500,000 in student loan debt, Elisha Bookman is by far the biggest student debtor in the US.
Elisha pursued higher education in the field of naturopathic medicine, obtaining the doctorate degree. As is generally the case, the higher the education, the more money you need to pay… Elisha learned this the hard way.
21. There are probably around 178,000 students in the US owing more than $100,000.
This is probably the most worrying stat…
For some students, it will be easy to repay their debts, provided they get a well-paid job. But unfortunately, some will have to work for significant periods of time on a lower wage than they expected, or they will simply have a hard time finding a job in the first place. It’s also not unusual for people to change their minds and decide they want a different career, which was the case with the UK student we mentioned.
22. Student loan debt forgiveness is probably not going to happen in the US.
Although the Biden administration issued a significant pause for payments, it’s unlikely that a significant proportion of total student loan debt will be forgiven.
That’s about it! If there’s one most important takeaway from this article, it’s that student loans are a double-edged sword. They can help you get a high-quality education that would otherwise remain unavailable to you, but on the other hand, they can become a ballast that will drag you down for the rest of your life—something that is true for all kinds of debt, so be careful and choose wisely.
Around $1.7 trillion. A vast majority of it is accounted for by federal funds, although there are also private sources for student loans in the US. It’s likely that this number will only continue to grow in the years to come—as we’ve seen, the student loan debt is steadily increasing with $100 million each year.
There are around 20 million college students in the US. It is estimated that 65% of them have taken loans. This means that around 13 million people who are currently studying are in debt.
45 million people. The number of students in debt is also increasing each year, although this rate of growth is somewhat harder to estimate. It’s likely that this distribution also has a linear rate of growth, meaning that with each year roughly the same number of students obtain loans for colleges.
$37,693. It has to be emphasized that the average depends on what enters calculation. Students of public universities have less debt—closer to $30,000 on average, according to the most recent student debt statistics. People who study in private universities naturally owe more money.
It’s $393, with a minimum monthly payment for federal loans of $50.
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