Student Loan Debt Statistics

ByNathan Paulus

Updated: September 3, 2023

ByNathan Paulus

Updated: September 3, 2023

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How Much Is the Average Student Loan Debt in the US?

The average student loan debt in the U.S. in 2021 was $37,693. There’s a slight increase from the $36,510 recorded average in 2020. Since 2007, the average debt has more than doubled.

Of all consumer debt categories, student loan debt is the second-highest after mortgages. It has reached $1.75 trillion.

US Student Loan Debt by the Numbers

 

Total and average student loan debt in the country saw a slight increase in 2021, mainly driven by outstanding federal student loan debt.

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The outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. is currently at $1.75 trillion. Of this total, 92% is owned by the federal government.

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The number of student loan debt borrowers reached approximately 45.3 million in 2021.

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Generally, the average student loan debt in the U.S. is $37,693 per borrower.

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The average student loan debt from federal institutions is $36,513 per borrower, while the student loan debt from private institutions averages $54,921 per borrower.

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A student borrower takes, on average, 20 years to pay off their student loan. For professional graduates, the average goes up to 45 years.

Total Student Loan Debt

With a total of $1.76 trillion in student loan debt at the end of 2021, the U.S. saw about a 3.5% year-on-year increase from the recorded $1.70 in 2020. Over the past decade, total student loan debt grew by 82.21%.

The 2021 student loan total was mainly driven by federal student loan debt. The federal government handled around 92% of the debt. The remaining 8% was from private institutions.

Student Loan: Federal vs. Private Student Loan

There are two primary institutions offering student loans: the federal government and private lenders.

In 2021, the federal government shouldered approximately 92% of total student loan debt. That means around 43.4 million borrowers had federal student loan debt. Depending on the type of federal student loan and borrower, the interest rate can range from 3.73% to 4.53% for the past two years for undergraduates. Most federal loans have a 0.0% interest rate until after Aug. 31, 2022, due to the CARES Act. The average federal student loan debt by the end of 2021 was $36,510 per borrower.

Meanwhile, the remaining 8% of student loan debt was from private lenders. In total, the balance for private student loans exceeded $140 billion. On average, private student loan debt was $54,921 per borrower.

Average Student Loan Debt Per State

Key Points on Student Loan Debt Per State

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California holds the largest student loan debt of $141.8 billion. Texas and Florida come in second and third place, respectively. Texas has a total student loan debt of $120 billion. Meanwhile, the total debt in Florida is $100.9 billion.

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The average student loan debt in Washington, D.C. is $54,945 per borrower. It has the highest average in the country.

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Texas has 3.65 million borrowers, making it the state with the highest number of student loan borrowers. Florida has the second-highest number of borrowers at 2.62 million, followed by New York (2.46 million), Ohio (1.79 million) and Georgia (1.65 million).

Average student loan debt varies per state. Washington, D.C. recorded the highest average in 2021 at $54,945 per borrower. It also has the highest number of borrowers per capita. Around 17.2% of its residents were in debt. Total student loan debt in the state was $6.5 billion.

North Dakota has the lowest average debt at $28,604 per borrower. Student loan debt in the state totaled $2.5 billion. There were 87,400 borrowers in North Dakota.

People aged 25 to 34 held the highest percentage of student loan debt in all states, including Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

Average Student Loan Debt by Education Level

Borrowers with doctorate degrees had the highest average student loan debt at $159,625. The average debt of individuals with a master’s degree was $71,287, while the average for undergraduate students was $36,635.

The average student loan debt for graduate degree holders was 141.8% higher than other student borrowers. Graduate studies refer to degrees beyond a bachelor’s, such as master’s and doctorate degrees.

Most graduate student loan borrowers also carried undergraduate loan debts.

Average Monthly Payment and Terms

Across the board, the average monthly repayment plans cost for student loans is $460. However, actual monthly repayment may vary depending on the level of education. For instance, the repayment amount for an associate student loan ranges from $281 to $384. Meanwhile, repayment for doctorate student loans ranges from $575 to $1,844.

Repayment terms may vary based on the level of education. While the average borrower repays student loan debt for 20 years, repayment plans can range from 10 to 30 years. For professional graduates, it may take up to 45 years.

For instance, the actual repayment term for a $30,000 graduate student loan is five years and 10 months. With an APR of 3% and a $465 monthly payment, the total repayment cost is $32,800. The table below shows how cost and repayment terms vary as the average debt gets adjusted.

Average New Graduate’s Loan Payments (3% APR, $465 Monthly Payment)
Average Debt
Repayment Term
Ultimate Cost

$30,000

5 years, 10 months

$32,800

$37,693

7 years, 7 months

$42,175

$39,351

8 years

$44,703

$54,921

11 years, 8 months

$65,171

$48,156

10 years

$55,800

Source: Education Data Initiative, “Average Student Loan Payment”

Student Loan Debt FAQ

Student loans help many individuals support their education. Knowing the average student loan debt, repayment terms and average monthly payment can give you an idea of what to expect when you take out a student loan. MoneyGeek answers some of the frequently asked questions to help you get started.

How many Americans have student loan debt?
What is the average student loan debt?
What is the average monthly student loan payment?
What is the average repayment period for a student loan?
What is the average interest rate on a student loan?

Expert Insights on Student Loans

Average student loan debt has increased during the past decade. However, there are differences in averages per state. MoneyGeek spoke with industry experts to share their insights on student loan data trends in the U.S.

  1. Why have average student loan debts risen so steeply in the past decade-and-a-half?
  2. Average student loan debts vary greatly per state, with Washington, D.C. having the highest average and North Dakota having the lowest average. What could be the cause of this difference?
  3. How can a borrower determine whether a federal student loan or private student loan is better for them? Any tips?
Will Geiger
Will GeigerFounder of Scholarships360.org
Melanie Hanson
Melanie HansonEditor in Chief at EDI Refinance
Seth Connell
Seth ConnellOwner of Financial Coach Seth Connell, LLC

Related Content

To better understand how student loans and financial aid work, best practices, and how to find the best options for your needs, find relevant financial guides and resources below.

Student Loan Guides

Other Student Resources

About Nathan Paulus


Nathan Paulus headshot

Nathan Paulus is the Head of Content Marketing at MoneyGeek, with nearly 10 years of experience researching and creating content related to personal finance and financial literacy.

Paulus has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of St. Thomas, Houston. He enjoys helping people from all walks of life build stronger financial foundations.


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