Student loan debt plays a significant role in the lives of many Americans. The cost associated with higher education continues to increase year over year, and for many, this translates to a heavier reliance on loans to bridge the gap. Consequently, outstanding U.S. student loan debt reached $1.75 trillion in the second quarter of 2022, according to the Federal Reserve — an all-time high.
Student loan debt will likely keep growing even in the wake of the U.S. government’s 2022 federal student loan debt cancellation initiative. Here, we’ll deliver a high-level overview of who’s currently carrying — and graduating with — the most student debt.
Note: Currently, all payments for certain types of federal student loans are suspended potentially until June 30, 2023, per an executive order by the President. Interest will not accrue during this time period. For more information, please visit ed.gov.
National student loan debt at a glance
- Student loan debt national average, including both federal and private loans: “as high as” $40,274
- Average federal student loan debt balance: $37,667
- Average borrowed to pursue a bachelor’s degree (at public universities): $32,880
- States with the highest student loan debt: District of Columbia, Maryland, Georgia, Virginia and Florida
- Age group with the highest average student loan debt: 30- to 39-year-olds (debt loads average approximately $40,500)
The above information was gathered from the Education Data Initiative. Please note that this data is ever-changing and was interpreted by the Education Data Initiative from various public sources.
Average student loan debt in the United States
According to a White House press release that accompanied the announcement of the 2022 student loan debt relief initiative, the average undergraduate borrower leaves school with roughly $25,000 in student debt.
This number varies, of course, based on how data is interpreted, along with other variables like which students are surveyed, what institutions are included and whether the loans are private or offered by the government. The Institute for College Access & Success, for example, concluded that 2019 graduates of public and private nonprofit universities owed an average of $28,950, while the Education Data Initiative suggests the typical graduate accrues $32,880 in student debt to attain a bachelor’s degree from public universities. In fact, the Education Data Initiative goes a step further, highlighting an overall average federal student loan balance of $37,667, based on publicly available data. With private student loans factored in, that number rises even higher, to $40,274 for graduates of both public and private universities.
Digging deeper, research from The Brookings Institution shows that the 6% of borrowers who owe more than $100,000 in student loan debt — including the 2% owing more than $200,000 — account for a third of all outstanding student loan debt.
The vast majority of those borrowers who owe more than $100,000 took out loans for graduate school. Loans associated with grad school account for about 50% of total outstanding student loan debt (and 25% of total borrowers). The other half belongs to the 75% of borrowers who took out loans for two- or four-year undergraduate degrees.
Which states have the highest average student loan debt?
Once again, data interpretations concerning the states with the highest student loan debt vary. Conclusions include the following:
- The Education Data Initiative highlights the District of Columbia ($54,945), Maryland ($42,861), Georgia ($41,639) and Virginia ($39,165) as the states with the highest average student loan debt per borrower.
- Per The Institute for College Access & Success, class of 2020 graduates in New Hampshire ($39,928), Delaware ($39,705) and Pennsylvania ($39,375) had the highest average student debt upon graduation.
- The Education Data Initiative also concluded that the four most populous states — California ($141.8 billion), Texas ($120.0 billion), Florida ($100.9 billion) and New York ($92.7 billion) — had the four highest total student loan debt loads, respectively.
Borrowers incur the highest average student loan debt by state in the southeastern United States, according to research from the Education Data Initiative. Nationwide, average student debt ranges from a low of $28,604 in North Dakota to a high of $54,945 in the District of Columbia.
Which age range has the highest student loan debt?
Per the Education Data Initiative, borrowers aged 30 to 39 years carry the highest average remaining student loan balance, at $40,500. The five age groups with the highest average student loan debt are:
- 30 to 39: $40,500
- 40 to 49: $40,400
- 50 to 59: $37,700
- 60 to 69: $33,800
- 70 to 79: $28,800
The same source indicates that borrowers aged 20 to 29 years carry $578 billion in total student loan debt, which amounts to approximately one-third of the national student debt load ($1.75 billion).
Over a third (34%) of adults ages 18 to 29 report carrying some level of student loan debt, making them the largest group of borrowers in the United States. Among those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, the rate with student debt rises to 49%. Roughly one in five adults (22%) ages 30 to 44 have student loan debt, compared to 4% of those 45 and older.
Student loan debt repayment
The standard repayment timetable for federal loans is 10 years, but borrowers’ actual timetables are dependent on the type of loan product, any deferment or forbearance plans and whether a borrower has refinanced. Note that the debt amount does not directly impact the repayment period. Generally, borrowers who graduate are more likely to pay their loans off (and do so on time).
Research shows that school type, labor market outcomes and repayment plan choices — among other factors — all influence repayment. For example:
- Borrowers at for-profit institutions and public two-year community colleges repay a lower fraction of their initial repayment balance three years after entering repayment — 3% and 8% less, respectively — than borrowers at four-year private institutions.
- Borrowers at four-year public colleges tend to repay their balances at a slightly faster rate than those at four-year private institutions.
- Higher family income and individual earnings also correlate with faster loan repayment.
The country’s outstanding student loan balance was widely projected to reach $2 trillion by 2022, not far beyond the Q2 2022 figure of $1.75 trillion — due to both slow repayments (related to the Federal deferment of student loans from 2020 to 2022) and new borrowing. Research found that of all borrowers with repayment obligations beginning in 2010–2012, only 51% had made significant progress toward cutting their outstanding balances five years later.
High monthly payments are typically to blame when it comes to delays in paying down balances. Current figures average close to $460 per month, up dramatically from the $227 average monthly bill back in 2005. The significant expense can make it difficult for student loan borrowers to budget for other important personal goals and milestones — such as upgrading a car, starting a family or buying a home.
Refinancing student loans with a personal line of credit can help you consolidate your student debt and lower monthly payments. If you’re interested in learning how a personal line of credit might meet your financial needs, a personal line of credit calculator can help get you started.