Average Student Loan Debt in America 2021

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Last Update: January 29, 2021 College Students Credit Cards Debt Loans Studies
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How much is the average student loan debt in America in 2021? How much is the total outstanding debt in America in 2021? Have the student loan debt continuing been rise after the COVID?

ElitePersonalFinance extracted the latest data from the US Department of Education and completed a study that will answer all of your questions.

But before we answer those questions, let’s answer:

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Average Student Loan Debt in America 2021: Statistics and Key Findings:

The average student loan debt in America is $36,510. This makes a raise of $1,305 or 3.6%.

The total outstanding student loan debt in America is $1,6 trillion. The raise in 2020-2019 change is $56 or 3,6%.

By Type:

The Total Direct Loan Debt is $1,3 Trillion. This makes 84% of the total outstanding student loan debt.

The Average Direct Student Loan Debt is $36,635.

The Total FFEL Debt is $245.9 Billion.

The Total Perkins Loans Debt is $5.2 Billion.

By Age:

In the 25-49 age, Borrowers make up nearly 71% of all outstanding student loan debt. However, a high percentage is expected due to the increased cost of graduate programs within the age-group.

By Amount:

In the range from 20K-40K, Borrowers have the highest outstanding student loan debt of $272.3 billion.

In the range of < 5K, Borrowers have the lowest outstanding student loan debt of $20.7 billion.

By Academic Institution:

  • Public: $662.2 Billion
  • Private: $520.2 Billion
  • Proprietary: $261.3 Billion
  • Foreign: $18.1 Billion
  • Other: $105.1 Billion

By State:

Top 5 states with the highest total outstanding student loan debt:

  • California: $140.1 Billion
  • Texas: $113.7 Billion
  • Florida: $95.9 Billion
  • New York: $90.3 Billion
  • Georgia: $65.7 Billion

Top 5 states with the lowest total outstanding student loan debt:

  • Wyoming: $1.6 Billion
  • Alaska: $2.2 Billion
  • North Dakota: $2.4 Billion
  • Vermont: $2.8 Billion
  • South Dakota: $3.5 Billion

Average Student Loan Debt in America 2021: Charts, Graph, Analysis

Historical Average Student Loan Debt

When analyzing the data, you get a clear sense of American education’s rising cost. With a continuously rising trend, the student loan debt had ballooned from $516 billion in 2007 to over $1,566,3 billion in 2020.

The COVID doesn’t seem to prevent this trend. The 2020-2019 change of $56 billion, or 3.6%, was positive as expected. However, we have to mention that the 2019-2018 change of $71,1 billion was bigger. This means that the raise decrease by $15,1 total or 21% compared to the previous period.

The average student loan debt increased by $1,305, or 3.6%, from 2019 to 2020. The 2019-2018 raise was $1,657, or 4.7%. This again means that the raise 2020-2019 was less than the raise that we had in 2019-2018.

Year: Total Outstanding Student Loan Debt (Billions): Number of Borrowers (Millions): Average Student Loan Debt:
2007 $516 28.3 $18,233
2008 $577 29.9 $19,298
2009 $657 32.1 $20,467
2010 $749.8 34.3 $21,860
2011 $848.2 36.5 $23,238
2012 $948.2 38.3 $24,757
2013 $1,040.2 39.6 $26,268
2014 $1,129.8 40.7 $27,759
2015 $1,212.4 41.6 $29,144
2016 $1,292.2 42.3 $30,548
2017 $1,366.9 42.6 $32,086
2018 $1,439.2 42.9 $33,548
2019 $1,510.3 42.9 $35,205
2020 $1,566.3 42.9 $36,510

Student Loan Debt by Type

When focusing on the type of debt outstanding, you can see direct loans make up nearly 84% of total student loan debt. Obtained through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, direct loans are financed by the US Department of Education, who, in turn, obtains their funds from the US Treasury Department.

The current interest rates for direct loans range from 5.05% for undergraduates to 7.6% for parents, graduate, or professional students. Federally regulated, the United States Congress sets interest rate caps to ensure a reasonable borrowing cost.

2020: Direct Loans: Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL): Perkins Loans:
Total Outstanding Student Loan Debt (Billions): $1,315.2 $245.9 $5.2
Number of Borrowers  (Millions) 35.9 11 1.7
Average Student Loan Debt: $36,635 $22,355 $3,059

What differentiates direct loans from Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) is FFEL financing is obtained through banks and other private financial institutions. Thus, borrowers can decide which institution they obtain financing through – which helps create interest rate competition. FFEL loans have a variable interest rate structure, so the cost of borrowing tends to fluctuate with US Treasury yields.

Now, what about Perkins Loans?

Accounting for only $5.2 billion of the $1,566.3 billion outstanding, Perkins Loans offer low-interest alternatives to students with exceptional financial needs. The interest rate is fixed at 5%, and the goal of the offering is to help students in unique financial circumstances obtain funds for their education.

Student Loan Debt by Age

When breaking down the data by age, you gain valuable insight into graduate education’s increased costs.

Notice how borrowers in the 25-49 age-bracket make about 70% of total student loan debt?

2020: ≤ 24 25 – 34 35 – 49 50 – 60 ≥ 62
Total Outstanding Student Loan Debt (Billions): $115.5 $500.5 $601.7 $262.2 $86.8
Number of Borrowers (Millions): 7.8 14.8 14.2 6.2 2.3
Average Student Loan Debt: $14,808 $33,818 $40,815 $42,373 $37,739

Due to rounding, totals may differ slightly from average statistics.

And why is this?

Because unlike their undergraduate counterparts, borrowers in these age-cohorts have greater exposure to graduate programs’ higher-costs.

Student Loan Debt by Amount

2020: < 5K 5K-10K 10K-20K 20K-40K 40K-60K 60K-80K 80K-100K 100K-200K > 200K
Total Outstanding Student Loan Debt (Billions): $20.7 $54.6 $133.1 $272.3 $205.8 $177 $123.2 $317.2 $263.1
Number of Borrowers (Millions): 7.9 7.4 9.2 9.6 4.2 2.6 1.4 2.3 0.9
Average Student Loan Debt: $2,620 $7,378 $14,467 $28,365 $49,000 $68,077 $88,000 $137,913 $292,333

While there are few identifiable trends, the data shows that student loan borrowers with the highest debt loads fall in the 20K-40K, 100K-200K, and the > 200K range.

In the range from 20K-40K, Borrowers have the highest outstanding student loan debt of $272.3 billion.

In the range of < 5K, Borrowers have the lowest outstanding student loan debt of $20.7 billion.

Consistent with our age-related findings above, borrowers with debts greater than $100,000 are usually graduate students. The higher debts usually result from some combination of yet-to-be-paid undergraduate debt and higher-tuition fees for master’s programs.

Student Loan Debt by Academic Institution

While foreign institutions have the highest average student loan debt, private university tuition often results in the highest cost.

2020: Public: Private: Proprietary: Foreign: Other:
Total Outstanding Student Loan Debt (Billions): $662.2 $520.2 $261.3 $18.1 $105.1
Number of Borrowers (Millions): 25.1 13.7 12.3 0.2 10.2
Average Student Loan Debt: $26,382 $37,971 $21,244 $90,500 $10,304

Due to rounding, totals may differ slightly from average statistics.

Like Harvard, Yale, and Columbia University, many private institutions use their Ivy League status to charge higher tuition fees. Considering many of the institutions have outstanding reputations and offer significant job placement opportunities for impending graduates – many student loan borrowers are more than willing to pay the higher tuition to attend.

Conversely, public schools – like the University of California (Irvine), the University of Georgia, and Texas A&M University – offer a lower-cost alternative but don’t provide the same level of prestige as their private counterparts.

Despite that, public student loans still make up nearly 43% of total outstanding debt.

Student Loan Debt by State

State: Debt (Billion): Borrowers (thousands):
Alabama $22.6 613.7
Alaska $2.2 66.5
Arizona $30 856
Arkansas $12.5 377.5
California $140.1 3,854.1
Colorado $27.6 753.9
Connecticut $16.6 478.7
Delaware $4.5 120.9
District of Columbia $6.4 116.4
Florida $95.9 2,513.1
Georgia $65.7 1,592.5
Hawaii $4.3 120.1
Idaho $6.9 212.8
Illinois $60 1,601.7
Indiana $29.1 891.8
Iowa $13 427.9
Kansas $12.2 377.1
Kentucky $19.1 585.5
Louisiana $21.5 629.3
Maine $5.9 181.3
Maryland $34.7 814.7
Massachusetts $29.7 871.6
Michigan $49.9 1,393.1
Minnesota $25.9 778.9
Mississippi $15.6 427.3
Missouri $28.8 816.8
Montana $4 122.6
Nebraska $7.7 242.7
Nevada $11.2 333.6
New Hampshire $6.2 185.3
New Jersey $40.5 1154
New Mexico $7.5 223
New York $90.3 2,399.1
North Carolina $46.8 1,257.5
North Dakota $2.4 84.5
Ohio $60.9 1,765.4
Oklahoma $14.8 471.7
Oregon $19.7 532.6
Pennsylvania $62.5 1,775.3
Puerto Rico $8.7 323.2
Rhode Island $4.4 137.7
South Carolina $26.8 704.1
South Dakota $3.5 113.1
Tennessee $30.1 835.3
Texas $113.7 3,480.2
Utah $9.6 298.6
Vermont $2.8 75.1
Virginia $41 1,053.9
Washington $27.1 771.7
West Virginia $7 222
Wisconsin $22.7 714.6
Wyoming $1.6 52.5
Other $4.2 92.4
Not Reported $108.1 4,497.7

Top 5 states with the highest total outstanding student loan debt:

  • California: $140.1 Billion
  • Texas: $113.7 Billion
  • Florida: $95.9 Billion
  • New York: $90.3 Billion
  • Georgia: $65.7 Billion

Top 5 states with the lowest total outstanding student loan debt:

  • Wyoming: $1.6 Billion
  • Alaska: $2.2 Billion
  • North Dakota: $2.4 Billion
  • Vermont: $2.8 Billion
  • South Dakota: $3.5 Billion

However, when breaking the numbers down by population – the story makes sense.

According to the US Census Bureau findings – California, Texas, and Florida still maintain their positions as the three highest populated states within the US.

And to that point – the top-10 states in our study with the highest outstanding student loan debts also rank in the top-10 in the overall population.

How We Conducted The Study

Sourced using the latest data from the US Department of Education: Federal Student Loan Portfolio, we dissected the numbers to present the most accurate picture of American student loan debt. Managed by Federal Student Aid’s office, the Federal Student Loan Portfolio comprises billions of dollars’ of Federal Direct Loans, Family Federal Education Loans (FFEL), and Perkins Loans.

Some of our segmented totals differ due to rounding, but the difference isn’t significant.

In this study, we mainly use the Federal Student Loan Portfolio from the US Department of Education.

What exactly is the Federal Student Loan Portfolio?

As an office of the US Department of Education, Federal Student Aid directly manages and oversees the Federal Student Loan Portfolio. With help from Enterprise Data Warehouse, the office provides timely, accurate, and consistent data to improve insight and analytics.

Enterprise Data Warehouse gathers its information from:

  • Postsecondary Education Participant Systems (PEPS).
  • Federal Loan Services.
  • Perkins Loan Schools.
  • National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS).
  • Guaranty Agencies.

Conclusion

As student loan indebtedness continues to rise across the United States, the data confirms a troubling trend regarding higher education costs. When analyzing the numbers on the average level, student loan debt has ballooned by nearly 192% over the last 12 years — increasing from 516 billion in 2007 to over 1.5 trillion in 2019:Q4.

The majority of borrowers are financed through Federal Direct Loans.

Obtained through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, direct loans account for nearly 82% of total outstanding student loan debts.

Age demographics also portray a predictable trend.

Borrowers aged 25 to 49 account for nearly 70% of total outstanding student loan debt, and students with the highest debt loads fall in the 20K-40K, 100K-200K, and > 200K range.

From an institutional perspective, public and private university students represent the largest contributors to total outstanding student loan debt, with private university students having the highest average debt.

So, where do we go from here?

When assessing the trends, it’s clear some form of government action is necessary to ensure higher education is more accessible and affordable for future generations.

Sources:

US Department of Education: Federal Student Loan Portfolio

Interest Rates for Federal Student Loans

Direct Student Loans vs. FFEL Loans

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