What is the average student loan debt in the U.S?

Written by
Average student loan debt

Millions of high school students take out loans each year to fund their college education. These loans provide access to higher education, great experiences, and new opportunities. 

However, many graduates continue paying school debt decades after graduating. Incoming collegiate students should weigh the pros and cons of student debt before taking out a loan. We’ll provide some tips and stats to help you make an informed decision. Here is what you need to know about the average student loan debt in the U.S.

How much debt can I handle?

Before you take on student debt, think like an investor. Investors go into debt, hoping to recoup their investment. Real estate investors use leverage to buy homes and expect they will rise in value. Any deal can produce a poor return if you overpay.

Consider the return on your investment before incurring student debt. Identify some career paths and how much they pay. Degrees can open doors to high-paying jobs, making them worth the investment. 

However, if your salary can’t keep up with student debt and other expenses, student loans may be a mistake. You’ll also have other expenses out of college. Many students move out of their parent’s homes and pay rent. 

They’ll also buy their groceries and pay for other essentials. These expenses will reduce your ability to make student debt payments. Consider what your life will look like after college before taking out a student loan.

Should I take out a student loan?

Student loans give you access to a college education. They remove money from the equation, but you shouldn’t wait until you graduate to take action. Every year, you can apply for grants and scholarships. 

Many corporations offer scholarships to students based on their year, GPA, major, extracurriculars, and other criteria. You can use sites like scholarships.com to find scholarships for your talents. 

You can also get a part-time job or work on a side hustle while in college. Paying off debt while in college makes it more manageable after Graduation Day. Every student has different needs. 

Some can navigate school debt with a part-time job. Others will need several scholarships to cover their debt. Knowing student loan debt statistics will help you assess your financial profile.

Average student loan debt statistics in the U.S

The average student loan debt statistics in the U.S. provide a glimpse into how much you’ll pay. Students may find deviations based on their college, state, and other factors. These average student loan debt stats serve as a guide.

Federal student loan debt$37,113
Private student loan debt $3,791
Amount borrowed for a Bachelor’s degreeOver $30,000
Total student loan debt in the U.S.$1.75 trillion
State with highest student loan debtNew Hampshire
State with lowest student loan debtUtah
Percentage of students in debt43%

Student loan debt statistics

Student loan debt has expanded dramatically over the past few decades. These statistics will help you feel prepared and understand the financial responsibility of incurring student debt.

Student loan by year

Student loan debt has consistently increased each year over the past 10 years. In recent years, this trend has decelerated with a relatively small 2.69% increase in 2021.

YearTotal BalanceYear-Over-Year Change
2012$1.055 trillion9.87%
2013$1.146 trillion8.63%
2014$1.236 trillion7.87%
2015$1.320 trillion6.84%
2016$1.405 trillion6.44%
2017$1.489 trillion5.95%
2018$1.571 trillion5.48%
2019$1.646 trillion4.83%
2020$1.703 trillion3.41%
2021$1.751 trillion2.69%

Average loan balances

Roughly 43% of students get into debt to pay for college, with the average balance as high as $40,904. Older borrowers owe more of the total national student debt. Those who fall into the category of 30- to 44-year-olds owe 49% of the national student debt, while people under 30 only account for 34% of the total debt. Thirty-five-year-olds owe more student debt than any other age group. Interest piles onto the loans and makes it almost impossible for some borrowers to chip away at the principal. 

Will student loan debt damage my credit score?

Student loan debt functions like any other loan. Paying off loans can help your credit score by demonstrating consistent payment history. However, failing to make payments on time will hurt your credit score. 

Student loans have a delay in reporting. Catching up on late payments before this deadline can protect you from a negative debt report. Federal student loan providers wait 90 days before reporting late payments. Private lenders offer less leniency with their 30-day windows.

Creating Your Game Plan for Paying Down Student Debt

Many students take out loans to pay for college. While student debt has a murky outlook, planning it out can reduce your student debt. You can strategically select colleges based on tuition costs and work while in college. These measures will reduce the financial burden of college and help you capture more of the upside. 


How much student debt is too much?

You may be taking on too much debt if you don’t feel confident in generating an ROI and worry about how you will pay it off.

How much student loan debt is there?

There is currently $1.75 trillion in student debt with no signs of slowing down.

How much is the average student loan debt?

The average amount of student loan debt is $40,904.

Sign Up
Sign Up

Fast, interest-free advances anytime

Get Instacash advances up to $500 for everyday expenses or life’s surprises. There’s no credit check, no monthly fee, and no interest.

Sign Up