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Average Student Loan Debt in US by Year

Average Student Loan Debt in US by Year

Federal loans account for over 90% of outstanding student debt, however, there are over six million borrowers who currently have nonfederal education loans. Currently, private loans comprise around 8% of total student loan debt.

  • The average federal student loan debt per borrower is currently at $37,175, with a total of $1,591.1 billion in federal student loan debt nationwide.
  • The private loan market was $92.6 billion in 2014 — an amount that has shown a 47% increase, representing $136.3 billion today (2021).
  • In current dollars, the average borrower student loan debt has increased by 74% from the Class of 2000 to the Class of 2021, from $17,550 to $30,600 (or 8.6% in inflation-adjusted dollars).
  • Private student loan debt amounts for approximately $136.3 billion. When combined with the total federal loan debt, it reaches a total of approx. $1.73 trillion student loan debt.
  • It will take the average student in debt around 20 years to pay off their loans.
  • Currently, 2.6 million borrowers owe less than 5K in student loan debt; meanwhile, less than 1 million borrowers (0.9 million) owe more than 200K.
  • The total federal and nonfederal loan amount (per FTE enrollment) has increased significantly, by 951% (even after adjusting for inflation) from 1971-71 to 2020-21 (from $9,122 to $95,877).
  • The average starting salary for recent graduates is $55,260, which means borrowers have to pay anywhere from $461 (10%) to $921 (20%) per month, under income-driven repayment plans.

The total student loan debt (private and federal) has experienced a significant increase of 41% from 2014 to 2021. In 2014, the total student loan debt was $1.22 trillion, increasing to $1.73 trillion in 2021.

Average Federal Student Loan Debt By Year

  • In 2020, the total student loan debt has reached 1.57 trillion, with over 42.9 million recipients.
  • The average federal student loan debt has shown a significant increase throughout the years.
  • Data shows that by the fourth quarter of 2007, there was $516 billion in student loan debt — an amount that has increased by around 208% by the third quarter of 2021 (or 131% after adjusting for inflation).
  • A significant factor in this 208% increase is the number of people taking out loans. In 2007 there were only 28.3 million recipients, in contrast to 2021 when the number of recipients reached a total of 42.8 million (third fiscal quarter).
  • In a matter of one year — from 2012 to 2013 — the student loan debt has escalated from billions to actual trillions of dollars.
  • With $948.2 billion in student loan debt by the last quarter of 2012 to over 1 trillion in the last quarter of 2013, federal student loans experienced an increase of 9.7%.
  • Once federal student loan debt reached trillions in 2013 ($1,040.2 in thousands of billions), the amount increased to $1,591 billion (or 1.59 trillion) by the third quarter of 2021.
*Federal Average Loan Debt (Billions) - Remaining debt by the end of the respective year (fourth fiscal quarter - Q4). *Federal Loan Debt - Includes Direct Loans, Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL), and Perkins Loans. *2021 - Remaining debt by the third fiscal quarter (Q3) of 2021.
Fiscal Year Federal Loan Debt
(Billions)*
Recipients
(Millions)
Average Loan Per
Recipient (Thousands)
2007 $516.0 28.3 $18,233
2008 $577.0 29.9 $19,297
2009 $657.0 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 $26,267
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 $33,547
2019 $1,510.3 42.9 $35,205
2020 $1,566.3 42.9 $36,510
2021* $1,591.1 42.8 $37,175

Data Analysis

  • The total student loan debt in 2021, according to the most recent estimates, is 1,59 trillion across 42.8 million recipients. This translates to roughly $37,175 in federal student loan debt per borrower.
  • If we compare the average student loan debt per student (in current dollars) in 2007 and the one in 2021, data shows that the students face a much higher debt burden today.
  • With an average of $18,233 per student in 2007 and an average of $37,175 by the third quarter of 2021, students are paying 103.89% more in student loan debt than they did 14 years ago (in current dollars).
  • Statistics show that one decade can have a large impact on student loan debt. From 2011 to 2021 the remaining debt has increased by approx. $13,937 per student — meaning an increase of almost 60%.
  • More and more people are still in debt by the year. According to approximations, each year, there is at least a rough increase of approx. 3.2% of people who owe money, from one year to the next.
  • However, by the fourth quarter of 2018, 2019, and 2020, the number of people still in debt has remained the same, a total of 4.9 million recipients. The number has shifted by the third quarter of 2021, where the total number of people still in debt is 42.8 million.
  • The average student in debt will take up to 20 years to pay off their loans.
  • The current average loan per student in 2021 ($37,175) can be quite a burden to the individual. In fact, many students have reported they are unable to buy real estate due to their student loan debt.
  • There is an interesting impact of student loan debt on the economy. While some would believe that canceling student loans would be bad for the economy, experts discuss that if students do not have to spend money towards repaying student loans, they will be able to spend that money elsewhere — therefore, a positive impact on the economy.

In a matter of one year — from 2012 to 2013 — the total federal student loan debt has shifted from billions to actual trillions of dollars.

Historical Average Student Loan Debt According to Debt Size

(Tables Below)

  • The federal student loan debt varies in size from one person to the other. While some might owe less than 5K in federal student loans, there are borrowers with a total amount of 200K still in debt.
  • As of the third quarter of 2021, 2.6 million borrowers owe less than 5K in student loan debt. Meanwhile, less than 1 million borrowers (0.9 million) owe more than 200K in student loan debt.
  • In 2021, 7.2 million borrowers have an outstanding debt size of approximately $2,652 per borrower. On the other hand, 0.9 million borrowers currently have an average debt size of 302,777.
  • Data shows that the highest number of borrowers — around 9.5 million borrowers — have an average federal debt size of anywhere between 14,446 to $28,395 per borrower.
  • Evidently, even four years ago, in 2017, the largest number of borrowers (~9 million) had a federal student loan debt of $14,000 to $29,000 per borrower.
  • 1.4 million borrowers, according to the most recent estimates, have $89,357 in federal student loan debt.
  • The most significant historical debt change is in borrowers who owe less than 5K. From 8.6 million borrowers in 2017 to 7.2 million borrowers by the third quarter of 2021 — the number of borrowers still in this category of debt has dropped by roughly 16.28% in a matter of four years.

Historical Average Amount Owed Per Borrower (Less Than 5K)

Federal Fiscal Year Average Amount Owed Borrowers (Millions) 2017 $7,389 7.7 2018 $7,407 7.6 2019 $7,346 7.5 2020 $7,378 7.4 2021* $7,213 7.5
Federal Fiscal Year Average Amount Owed Borrowers
(Millions)
2017 $2,604 8.6
2018 $2,600 8.5
2019 $2,590 8.3
2020 $2,620 7.9
2021* $2,652 7.2

Historical Average Amount Owed Per Borrower (Less Than 10K)

*According to the third fiscal quarter (Q3) of 2021.
Federal Fiscal
Year
Average Amount
Owed
Borrowers
(Millions)
2017 $7,389 7.7
2018 $7,407 7.6
2019 $7,346 7.5
2020 $7,378 7.4
2021* $7,213 7.5

Historical Average Amount Owed Per Borrower (Less Than 20K)

*According to the third fiscal quarter (Q3) of 2021.
Federal Fiscal
Year
Average Amount
Owed
Borrowers
(Millions)
2017 $14,446 9.4
2018 $14,526 9.3
2019 $14,500 9.2
2020 $14,467 9.2
2021* $14,446 9.4

Historical Average Amount Owed Per Borrower (Less Than 40K)

*According to the third fiscal quarter (Q3) of 2021.
Federal Fiscal
Year
Average Amount
Owed
Borrowers
(Millions)
2017 $28,542 9.4
2018 $28,400 9.5
2019 $28,421 9.5
2020 $28,364 9.6
2021* $28,395 9.6

Historical Average Amount Owed Per Borrower (Less Than 60K)

*According to the third fiscal quarter (Q3) of 2021.
Federal Fiscal
Year
Average Amount
Owed
Borrowers
(Millions)
2017 $48,775 4.0
2018 $48,731 4.1
2019 $49,487 4.1
2020 $49,000 4.2
2021* $49,595 4.2

Historical Average Amount Owed Per Borrower (Less Than 80K)

*According to the third fiscal quarter (Q3) of 2021.
Federal Fiscal
Year
Average Amount
Owed
Borrowers
(Millions)
2017 $69,695 2.3
2018 $69,791 2.4
2019 $69,280 2.5
2020 $68,076 2.6
2021* $69,000 2.6

Historical Average Amount Owed Per Borrower (Less Than 100K)

*According to the third fiscal quarter (Q3) of 2021.
Federal Fiscal
Year
Average Amount
Owed
Borrowers
(Millions)
2017 $89,272 1.1
2018 $90,166 1.2
2019 $90,692 1.3
2020 $88,000 1.4
2021* $89,357 1.4

Historical Average Amount Owed Per Borrower (Less Than 200K)

*According to the third fiscal quarter (Q3) of 2021.
Federal Fiscal
Year
Average Amount
Owed
Borrowers
(Millions)
2017 $136,263 1.9
2018 $140,200 2.0
2019 $137,136 2.2
2020 $137,913 2.3
2021* $135,333 2.4

Historical Average Amount Owed Per Borrower (Over 200K)

*According to the third fiscal quarter (Q3) of 2021.
Federal Fiscal
Year
Average Amount
Owed
Borrowers
(Millions)
2017 $293,333 0.6
2018 $294,857 0.7
2019 $299,750 0.8
2020 $292,333 0.9
2021* $302,777 0.9

Data shows that the highest number of borrowers — around 9.5 million borrowers — have an average federal debt size of anywhere between 14,446 to $28,395 per borrower.

Historical Student Loan Debt at Graduation Year (Per Borrower)

  • The average debt per borrower at graduation currently is around $30,600, excluding Parent PLUS Loans. After including Parent PLUS Loans, the average debt per borrower stands at roughly $37,175 in the third fiscal quarter of 2021.
  • The percentage of graduates (bachelor’s degree recipients) with debt among states is currently highest in South Dakota, with 73% of all state graduates owing loans.
  • On the other hand, the percentage of graduates with debt among states is currently lowest in Utah, with 39% of all state graduates owing loans.
  • Nationally, 62% of students who graduated from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2019 had student loan debt, owing an average of $28,950.
  • In 2018, 65% of graduates had student loans, a slight difference from 2019.
  • The average student loan debt per borrower has increased by 74% from the Class of 2000 to the Class of 2021, specifically from $17,550 to $30,600 (or 8.6% after adjusting for inflation).
  • In the majority of cases throughout the years, New Hampshire is the state with the highest student loan debt per borrower at graduation. The average debt per borrower in New Hampshire is around $39,928.
  • Utah is the US state with the lowest average student loan debt per borrower at graduation. The average debt per borrower in Utah is $18,344, according to the most recent data.
  • The highest student loan debt per borrower has been estimated in New Hampshire, District of Columbia, Iowa, Delaware, and Connecticut.
  • The lowest student loan debt per borrower has been estimated in states like Utah, Hawaii, and New Mexico.
  • For the Class of 2019, the average student debt per borrower was $28,950, which is a decrease of 0.8% compared to one year prior in 2018 ($29,200).
  • For the Class of 2005, the average student debt per borrower was $20,000. The state with the highest debt was New Hampshire ($22,793), while the state with the lowest debt per borrower was Utah ($11,709).
  • For the Class of 2010, the average student debt per borrower was $25,250. The state with the highest debt was New Hampshire ($31,048), while the state with the lowest debt per borrower was Utah ($15,509).
  • For the Class of 2015, the average student debt per borrower was $30,100. The state with the highest debt was New Hampshire ($36,101), while the state with the lowest debt per borrower was Utah ($18,873).
  • For the Class of 2006, 2008, and 2009, District of Columbia had the highest student loan debt per borrower.
  • Iowa made the list only once (for the Class of 2007) during the 2000-2021 time frame as the state with the highest debt per borrower.
  • Delaware was a high loan debt state in 2012 ($33,649) and 2014 ($33,808).
  • Connecticut was a high debt state for the Class of 2017 ($38,510) and 2018 ($38,669).
  • For the Class of 2006, Hawaii had the lowest debt, approximately $11,758 per borrower.
  • New Mexico had the lowest debt per borrower only for the Class of 2012 and 2013 ($17,994 and $18,656 per borrower, respectively).
*Rough projections based on trends. **Unadjusted for inflation. *Excluding Parent PLUS loans.
Class Of: Average Debt** Highest Debt State Lowest Debt State
2000 $17,550 N/A N/A
2001 $16,900 N/A N/A
2002 $18,870 N/A N/A
2003 $16,070 N/A N/A
2004 $18,550 N/A N/A
2005 $20,000 New Hampshire ($22,793) Utah ($11,709)
2006 $26,900 District of Columbia ($27,757) Hawaii ($11,758)
2007 $28,500 Iowa ($26,208) Utah ($13,266)
2008 $23,200 District of Columbia ($29,793) Utah ($13,041)
2009 $24,000 District of Columbia ($30,033) Utah ($12,860)
2010 $25,250 New Hampshire ($31,048) Utah ($15,509)
2011 $26,600 New Hampshire ($32,440) Utah ($17,227)
2012 $27,850 Delaware ($33,649) New Mexico ($17,994)
2013 $28,400 New Hampshire ($32,795) New Mexico ($18,656)
2014 $28,950 Delaware ($33,808) Utah ($18,921)
2015 $30,100 New Hampshire ($36,101) Utah ($18,873)
[1] 2016 $28,175 New Hampshire ($36,367) Utah ($19,975)
[2] 2017 $28,650 Connecticut ($38,510) Utah ($18,838)
[3] 2018 $29,200 Connecticut ($38,669) Utah ($19,728)
[4] 2019 $28,950 New Hampshire ($39,410) Utah ($17,935)
[5] 2020 $30,000 New Hampshire ($39,928) Utah ($18,344)
[6] 2021* $30,600* New Hampshire ($40,000)* Utah ($18,700)*

Historically, New Hampshire is the state with the highest student loan debt per borrower at graduation. The average debt per borrower in New Hampshire is around $39,928.

Historical Average Private Student Loan Debt

Private loans refer to loans made by banks and other private lenders. Generally, they are a riskier way to pay for university and cost more than federal loans.

  • Recent years have shown an increase in private student loans. In 2014, the total private loan market was estimated to be $92.6 billion. In 2021, it stands at around $136.3 billion, increasing by 47% compared to 2014.
  • Today, private student loans comprise almost 8% of total student loan debt.
  • According to industry surveys, private student debt decreased temporarily during the Great Recession, only to bounce back up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Private student loan debt amounts for approximately over $136.3 billion. When combined with the total federal loan debt, it reaches a total of approx. $1698.11 billion student loan debt.
  • The state with the highest average private student loan debt at graduation is District of Columbia, with an average of $51,738 per borrower.
  • The state with the lowest average private student loan debt at graduation is New Mexico, with an average of $13,558 per borrower.
  • The share of private loan borrowers stood at over 15% in ten states, among 2020 bachelor’s degree graduates.
  • Across ten different US states, the average private debt is over $40,000 per borrower, specifically, in the District of Columbia, Delaware, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, and Alabama.
  • Nationally, the highest percentage of graduates with private debt is in North Dakota (27%), meanwhile the lowest happens to be in Utah (3%).
  • Amidst the ten most populous states in the US, Pennsylvania has the highest share of private student borrowers (22% in the Class of 2020). Each has an average of $42,400 in private student loan debt.

Private student debt has reportedly decreased temporarily during the Great Recession, only to bounce back up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Historical Income-Driven Loan Repayment

Income-driven repayment plans allow the monthly payment to be affordable based on the borrower’s income. Depending on the specific income-driven repayment plan, borrowers may have to pay from 10% to 20% of their monthly income. The four types of income-driven repayment plans are REPAYE Plan (10%), PAYE Plan (10%), IBR Plan (10%–15%), and ICR Plan (20%).

Note: Current dollars in this section refers to amounts that have not been adjusted for inflation.

  • Under each income-driven repayment plan, borrowers will have to repay their federal student loans anywhere from 20 to 25 years.
  • The average starting salary for recent graduates is currently $55,260, which means borrowers have to pay anywhere from $461 (10%) to $921 (20%) per month.
  • Monthly loan payments in 1970 ranged from $83 (10%) to $166 (10%) — or $592 (10%) to $1,183 (10%) , after adjusting for inflation.
  • Today’s average starting salary is much higher than it was in 1970, increasing by approximately 455% (from $9,950 to $55,260, respectively). But this changes after adjusting for inflation. In inflated amounts, today’s salary has actually decreased by 17% from 1970 to 2020.
  • After adjusting for inflation, the average salary in 1975 was $62,207 per year. This means borrowers had to pay from $519 (10%) to $1,033 (20%) in monthly loan payments.
  • Unadjusted for inflation, the average starting salary of college graduates in 1975 was $12,100, meaning monthly loan payments ranged from $101 (10%) to $201 (20%).
  • Unadjusted for inflation, the average salary for recent college graduates in 1980 was $18,550, which means monthly student loan repayments stood at $155 (10%) to $309 (10%) per month.
  • In 1990, the average salary was $27,530 (unadjusted), with monthly loan repayments ranging from $229 (10%) to $456 (20%).
  • Current dollar amounts show that borrowers in 1990 had to pay comparatively little per month. However, inflation-adjusted amounts show that not much has changed compared to now.
  • In current dollars, 10% of the income in 2000 meant a payment of $332 per month, 15% meant $498 per month, meanwhile 20% meant borrowers had to pay $664 monthly.
  • In current dollars, the average starting income in 2005 was $42,080 annually. This meant borrowers under income-driven repayment plans had to pay anything from $351 to $701 per month.
  • In inflation-adjusted dollars, the average income for the Class of 2005 was $59,595 annually. This meant borrowers had to pay anything from $497 to $993 per month.
  • In current dollars, with a starting income of $48,290, Class of 2010 had to make monthly loan payments ranging from $402 to $805.
  • In inflation-adjusted dollars, the Class of 2010 — with a starting salary of $61,253 — had to make monthly payments ranging from $510 to $1,021.
  • In current dollars, starting college graduates’ salaries have increased drastically. In inflation-adjusted amounts, salaries today are lower than they were from 1970 to 2011 (and even select years after).
*Projected based on trends. *Adjusted for inflation (2021) in parenthesis.
Class Of: Average Salary 10% Repayment 15% Repayment 20% Repayment
[1] 1970 $9,950 ($70,929) $83 ($592) $124 ($884) $166 ($1,183)
1975 $12,100 ($62,207) $101 ($519) $151 ($776) $201 ($1,033)
1980 $18,550 ($62,266) $155 ($520) $232 ($779) $309 ($1,037)
1985 $24,290 ($62,438) $202 ($519) $304 ($781) $405 ($1,041)
1990 $27,530 ($58,259) $229 ($485) $344 ($728) $456 ($965)
1995 $29,280 ($53,140) $244 ($443) $366 ($664) $488 ($886)
2000 $39,820 ($63,959) $332 ($533) $498 ($800) $664 ($1,067)
2001 $42,560 ($66,469) $355 ($554) $532 ($831) $709 ($1,107)
2002 $40,160 ($61,744) $335 ($515) $502 ($772) $669 ($1,029)
2003 $39,270 ($59,031) $327 ($492) $491 ($738) $655 ($985)
2004 $39,960 ($58,510) $333 ($488) $500 ($732) $666 ($975)
2005 $42,080 ($59,595) $351 ($497) $526 ($745) $701 ($993)
2006 $43,320 ($59,434) $361 ($495) $542 ($744) $722 ($991)
2007 $45,730 ($61,015) $381 ($508) $572 ($763) $762 ($1,017)
2008 $49,220 ($63,230) $410 ($527) $615 ($790) $820 ($1,053)
2009 $48,630 ($62,696) $405 ($522) $608 ($784) $811 ($1,046)
2010 $48,290 ($61,253) $402 ($510) $604 ($766) $805 ($1,021)
2011 $51,170 ($62,920) $426 ($524) $640 ($787) $853 ($1,049)
2012 $44,260 ($53,319) $369 ($445) $553 ($666) $738 ($889)
2013 $45,330 ($53,820) $378 ($449) $567 ($673) $755 ($896)
2014 $48,130 ($56,232) $401 ($469) $602 ($703) $802 ($937)
2015 $50,220 ($58,605) $419 ($489) $628 ($733) $837 ($977)
2016 $50,360 ($58,036) $420 ($484) $630 ($726) $839 ($967)
2017 $50,520 ($57,006) $421 ($475) $632 ($713) $842 ($950)
2018 $50,940 ($56,109) $425 ($468) $637 ($702) $849 ($935)
2019 $53,890 ($58,302) $449 ($486) $674 ($729) $898 ($972)
2020 $55,260 ($59,056) $461 ($493) $691 ($738) $921 ($984)
2021* $56,000 ($56,000) $467 ($467) $700 ($700) $933 ($933)

In current dollars, graduates from Class of 1985 had to pay somewhat $202 to $405 per month (under income-driven repayment plans), with an average starting annual salary of $24,290.

Historical Undergraduate School Completers With Student Loans

  • In the 1999-2000 academic year, 43.5% of school completers who earned a certificate below associate’s level had student loans, which is higher than school completers who earned an associate’s degree (38.9%) and lower than school completers who earned a bachelor’s degree (62.2%).
  • The percentage of undergraduate school completers with student loans in 1999-2000 was the highest for bachelor’s degree recipients. Such was the case even one decade later in 2011-12 (69.0%) as well as 15 years along the line (68.9%).
  • There has been a significant increase of 24.2% in the percentage of school completers who graduated with a certificate below associate’s level from 1999 to 2016.
  • A significant increase of 9.2% throughout 1999 to 2016 is also evident in school completers who graduated with an associate’s degree (from 38.9% to 48.1%, respectively).
  • The number of bachelor’s degree completers with student loans was higher in 2015-16, than it was in 1999-2000, a 6.7% percentage increase (from 62.2% to 68.9%, respectively).

Historical Percentage of Undergraduate School Completers With Student Loans

*Includes Federal Loans, Nonfederal Loans (only select years 2011–12 and 2015–16), and Parent PLUS Loans.
Year Certificate Below
Associate's Level
Associate's Degree Bachelor's Degree
1999–2000 43.5% 38.9% 62.2%
2011–12 66.3% 49.8% 69.0%
2015–16 67.7% 48.1% 68.9%

Historical Undergraduate Average Cumulative Loan Amount 1999–2016

  • The average cumulative loan amount was highest amongst bachelor’s degree completers ($29,910) in the 2015-16 academic year, followed by associate degree completers ($18,550) and those with a certificate below associate’s level ($15,520).
  • In 1999-2000, students with a bachelor’s degree had an average cumulative loan amount of $17,480, which is $29,020 after adjusting for inflation.
  • In 2011-12, borrowers with a bachelor’s degree had an average cumulative loan of $29,380 (or $36,126, after adjusting for inflation).
  • Adjusting for inflation, the average cumulative amount was higher for bachelor’s degree recipients in the 2011-12 academic year ($36,126) than it was 4 years later, in 2015-16 ($34,904).
  • After adjusting for inflation, statistics show that the certificate holders and associate’s degree holders have experienced significant cumulative loan increases in 10 and 5-year intervals.
  • Associate degree holders in the 1999-2000 academic year owed an average of $9,490, which when adjusted for inflation is the same as having to pay $15,755 in 2021.
  • Bachelor’s degree holders in 1999-2000 owed an average of $17,480, which when adjusted for inflation is the same as having to pay $29,020 today.

Historical Undergraduate Average Cumulative Loan Amount

*Average amount owed in current dollars. *Adjusted for inflation (2021) in parenthesis.
Year Certificate Below
Associate's Level
Associate's Degree Bachelor's Degree
1999–2000 $7,790 ($12,933) $9,490 ($15,755) $17,480 ($29,020)
2011–12 $13,280 ($16,329) $17,160 ($21,100) $29,380 ($36,126)
2015–16 $15,520 ($18,111) $18,550 ($21,647) $29,910 ($34,904)

After adjusting for inflation, statistics show that the certificate holders and associate’s degree holders have experienced significant cumulative loan increases in 10 and 5-year intervals.

Historical Graduate School Completers With Student Loans

  • 55.1% of graduates who completed a postbaccalaureate certificate in 2015–2016 had federal student loans.
  • 60.0% of graduates who completed a master’s degree during the 2015–2016 academic year had student loans.
  • 48.2% of students who completed doctorate research, graduated with student loans during the 2015–2016 academic year.
  • 74.5% of professional doctorate degree students had student loans upon graduation during the same academic year.
  • During the 1999–2000 academic year, the percentage of postbaccalaureate certificate school completers with student loans was roughly 49.2%, a number that has increased by 5.9 percentage points, 15 years later.
  • During the same year, 47.2% of master’s degree graduates in the United States had student loans, a number that has increased by 12.8 percentage points, in a matter of 15 years.
  • 43.6% of doctor’s research graduates during 1999–2000 had student loans upon graduation, in contrast to 48.2% in 2015–16 — with an increase of 4.6 percentage points.
  • On the other hand, the percentage of professional doctorate graduates with student loans in 1999–2000 (81.2%) was higher, compared to 15 years later (74.5%).
  • Among all graduate degree levels, only professional doctorate degree holders experienced a decrease in school completers graduating with student loans.
  • During 2003–12, the percentage of graduate school completers with student loans remained unchanged (approx. 84%), in students completing a professional doctorate degree.

Historical Percentage of Graduate School Completers With Student Loans

*Includes total loans (for undergraduate and graduate education).
Year Postbaccalaureate
Certificate
Master’s Degree Doctor’s Research Doctor’s
Professional
1999–2000 49.2 47.2 43.6 81.2
2003–04 53.0 59.4 50.5 84.8
2007–08 64.1 62.7 49.3 84.9
2011–12 44.5 65.2 47.5 84.9
2015–16 55.1 60.0 48.2 74.5

Historical Graduate Average Cumulative Loan Amount 1999–2016

  • Postbaccalaureate certificate graduates owed an average of $66,550 in the 2015–16 academic year (or $77,661 after adjusting for inflation).
  • Master’s graduates owed an average of 64,770 in the same academic year (or $75,584 after adjusting for inflation).
  • Doctor’s research graduates owed an average of $106,430 in the 2015–16 academic year (or $124,199 after adjusting for inflation).
  • Professional doctorate degree graduates owed an average of 183,200 in the same academic year (or $213,787 after adjusting for inflation).
  • The average cumulative amount owed has shown a significant increase across all degree types in a matter of 15 years.
  • Adjusting for inflation, within 15 years — from 1999–2000 to the 2015–16 academic year — the average amount owed across all degree types has increased by approximately 81.5%.
  • Adjusting for inflation, in a matter of 15 years, from 1999–2000 to 2015–16, there has been an 83% increase in the average amount owed by postbaccalaureate certificate graduates ($42,418 to $77,661).
  • Adjusting for inflation, the amount owed by master’s degree graduates has experienced a 55% increase in a matter of 15 years, from $48,793 to $75,584, respectively.
  • Adjusting for inflation, the amount owed by Doctor’s research graduates spiked by over 100% within 15 years (from $61,975 to $124,199).
  • The average amount owed by professional doctorate degree graduates increased by 88% from the 1999–2000 to the 2015–16 academic year ($113,690 to $213,787 respectively).

Historical Graduate Average Cumulative Amount Owed

*Average cumulative amount owed in current dollars. *Adjusted for inflation (2021) in parenthesis. *Includes total loans (for undergraduate and graduate education). *Federal and private student loans, excluding Parent PLUS loans. Direct Subsidized Loans for graduate students were discontinued after the academic year 2011–12.
Year Postbaccalaureate
Certificate
Master’s Degree Doctor’s Research Doctor’s
Professional
1999–2000 $25,550 ($42,418) $29,390 ($48,793) $37,330 ($61,975) $68,480 ($113,690)
2003–04 $29,920 ($44,976) $35,240 ($52,973) $56,210 ($84,495) $90,630 ($136,235)
2007–08 $38,640 ($51,555) $43,860 ($58,520) $65,210 ($87,006) $102,600 ($136,894)
2011–12 $60,790 ($74,748) $60,000 ($73,777) $80,330 ($98,775) $150,140 ($184,615)
2015–16 $66,550 ($77,661) $64,770 ($75,584) $106,430 ($124,199) $183,200 ($213,787)

During the 1999-2000 academic year, 47.2% of master’s degree graduates in the United States had student loans. Within 15 years, this number has increased by 12.8 percentage points.

Historical First-Time Undergraduate Students With Student Loans

  • 42.9% of enrolled first-time undergraduate students in the US received loans in the 2018–2019 academic year. The average annual loan amount reached $7,218 (or $7,950 after adjusting for inflation).
  • Adjusting for inflation, the average annual loan amount among first-time undergraduate students increased by 31.5% from 2000–01 to the 2018–19 academic year.
  • Adjusting for inflation, surprisingly, within one decade, the annual loan amount experienced a decrease of 8%, from an average of $8,637 in 2008–09 to $7,950 in 2018–19.
  • 40.1% of first-time, full-time, enrolled students received loans in the 2000–01 academic year, which — when compared to 2019 data — only shows a 7% difference from nowadays.
  • Significantly, more than half of all enrolled first-time undergraduate students in the US received loans in the 2009–10 academic year. Each received an average annual loan of $7,019 (or $9,049 after adjusting for inflation).
  • The percentage of students receiving student loans was also slightly over 50% one year after, in the 2010–11 academic year, with 50.1% of total enrolled first-time undergraduates. Each was awarded an average of $6,624 (or $8,402 after adjusting for inflation).
  • The average annual loan amount that first-time undergraduate students received increased by 9% between 2010–11 to 2018–19 (from $6,624 to $7,218). However, after adjusting for inflation, this amount actually experienced a decrease of 5.3% during the same time frame ($8,402 to $7,950, respectively).
  • The highest average annual loan amount, as well as percentage of students receiving loans, was in the 2009–2010 academic year, respectively an average amount of $9,049 (adjusted for inflation) across 51.2% of enrolled first-time undergraduate students.
*Loans made directly to students (excludes Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students or other loans to parents). *Average amount owed in current dollars. *Adjusted for inflation (2021) in parenthesis. *Across all postsecondary institutions.
Years % of Enrolled
Students Receiving Loans
Average Annual Loan
Amount
[1] 2000–01 40.1% $3,764 ($6,046)
2001–02 40.7% $3,970 ($6,200)
2002–03 41.4% $4,331 ($6,659)
2003–04 43.1% $4,193 ($6,303)
2004–05 44.0% $4,463 ($6,535)
2005–06 44.6% $4,831 ($6,842)
2006–07 43.5% $5,018 ($6,885)
2007–08 45.5% $6,008 ($8,016)
2008–09 46.6% $6,723 ($8,637)
2009–10 51.2% $7,019 ($9,049)
2010–11 50.1% $6,624 ($8,402)
2011–12 51.2% $6,641 ($8,166)
2012–13 49.4% $6,896 ($8,308)
2013–14 47.3% $7,015 ($8,329)
2014–15 47.0% $6,925 ($8,091)
2015–16 45.6% $6,989 ($8,156)
2016–17 46.1% $7,080 ($8,159)
2017–18 44.4% $7,082 ($7,991)
2018–19 42.9% $7,218 ($7,950)

Public Institutions

  • 43.9% of all enrolled first-time undergraduate students at public 4-year institutions received student loans, an average of $7,011 in annual loan amount.
  • By contrast, only 18.0% of enrolled students at 2-year public institutions received loans, an average of $4,707 each.
  • Both 4-year and 2-year public institutions experienced a significant increase in students receiving loans, approximately a three-point percentage increase from 2000-01 to 2018-19.
  • What is especially significant is the percentage decrease in students receiving loans at 4-year institutions in the 2010-11 academic year as compared to the 2018-19 academic year. The percentage of enrolled students receiving loans decreased by 7.6 percentage points, from 51.5% in 2010-11 to 43.9% in 2018-19.
  • Among public 2-year institutions, the percentage of students awarded loans was 1.4 percentage points higher in 2017–18, compared to the 2018-19 academic year (18.0%).
  • Adjusting for inflation, the average loan amount also experienced its ups and downs across both types of public institutions. From $5,159 in the 2000-01 academic year to $7,722 in 2018-19, the average loan amount increased by 49.6% in 4-year institutions.
  • By contrast, in 2-year institutions, the average loan amount increased by 34.7% from $3,848 to $5,185 during the same time frame.
*Average amount owed in current dollars. *Adjusted for inflation (2021) in parenthesis.
Year 4-Year Institutions 2-Year Institutions
% of Enrolled
Students Receiving Loans
Average Loan Amount
2000-01 40.7% $3,212 ($5,159)
2005-06 44.4% $4,166 ($5,900)
2010-11 51.5% $6,127 ($7,772)
2014-15 49.5% $6,694 ($7,821)
2015-16 47.2% $6,710 ($7,830)
2016-17 47.1% $6,837 ($7,879)
2017-18 46.0% $6,869 ($7,751)
2018-19 43.9% $7,011 ($7,722)

Private Non-Profit Institutions

  • 57.6% of all enrolled students in 4-year private non-profit institutions received loans in the 2018–19 academic year, with an average loan amount of $8,334.
  • On the other hand, 88.0% of enrolled students in 2-year private non-profit institutions received loans during the same academic year, with an average loan amount of $7,041.
  • The average loan amount in the 2018-2019 academic year was higher for enrollees in 4-year institutions, by around 16%, compared to enrollees in 2-year institutions.
  • In the 2010-11 academic year, 64.3% of all enrolled students at 4-year private nonprofit institutions took out student loans, which is the highest percentage noted from 2000 to 2019.
  • 88.4% of all enrolled students at 2-year private nonprofit institutions took out loans during the 2017-18 academic year, which is the highest percentage noted from 2000 to 2019 in this type of institution.
  • Students at 2-year private nonprofit institutions are more likely to take out student loans, with 88.0% of all enrolled students in the 2018-19 academic year.
  • Students at 4-year private nonprofit institutions do not fall that far behind, with more than half (57.6%) of all enrolled students during the same academic year receiving loans.
  • Additionally, the 2018-19 academic year reflects the lowest percentage (57.6%) of all enrolled students receiving student loans at 4-year institutions. The 2-year institutions’ equivalent has been noted in the 2014-15 academic year (48.4%).
*Average amount owed in current dollars. *Adjusted for inflation (2021) in parenthesis.
Year 4-Year Institutions 2-Year Institutions
% of Enrolled
Students Receiving Loans
Average Loan Amount
2000-01 58.1% $4,000 ($6,425)
2005-06 59.8% $5,264 ($7,455)
2010-11 64.3% $7,305 ($9,266)
2014-15 60.9% $7,994 ($9,340)
2015-16 59.2% $8,002 ($9,338)
2016-17 59.4% $8,179 ($9,426)
2017-18 58.8% $8,181 ($9,231)
2018-19 57.6% $8,334 ($9,180)

Private For-Profit Institutions

  • 69.7% of all enrolled students at 4-year private for-profit universities received student loans in the 2018-19 academic year, an average of $8,185 each ($9,016 after adjusting for inflation).
  • 74.0% of all enrolled students at 2-year private for-profit universities received student loans in the 2018-19 academic year, an average of $7,186 each ($7,915 after adjusting for inflation).
  • The 2010-11 academic year marks the highest percentage of enrolled students receiving loans as well as the highest average loan amount across private for-profit institutions, throughout 2000-2019.
  • In the 2010-11 academic year, 82.9% of all enrolled students at 4-year private for-profit institutions received student loans, an average of $10,859 each (adjusted for inflation). This is the highest percentage of students as well as the highest amount reported from 2000 to 2019 in this institution type.
  • In the same academic year (2010-11), 81.5% of all enrolled students at 2-year private for-profit institutions took out student loans, an average of $9,892 each (adjusted for inflation).
*Average amount owed in current dollars. *Adjusted for inflation (2021) in parenthesis.
Year 4-Year Institutions 2-Year Institutions
% of Enrolled
Students Receiving Loans
Average Loan Amount
2000-01 57.7% $5,749 ($9,234)
2005-06 67.2% $7,046 ($9,979)
2010-11 82.9% $8,561 ($10,859)
2014-15 75.7% $8,237 ($9,624)
2015-16 73.4% $8,413 ($9,818)
2016-17 71.5% $8,331 ($9,601)
2017-18 65.1% $8,329 ($9,398)
2018-19 69.7% $8,185 ($9,016)

After adjusting for inflation, the average annual loan amount among first-time undergraduate students increased by 31.5% from 2000–01 to the 2018–19 academic year.

Historical Loan Debt by Institution Type

The historical loan debt by school type data shows the federal student debt divided according to the school that made the loan (public, private, proprietary, and foreign, respectively).

  • Loans made by public institutions accounted for $581.1 billion in debt in 2017, with a total of 24.3 million recipients.
  • Loans made by public institutions in 2021, on the other hand, accounted for $699.7 billion in student debt, with a total of 25.0 recipients — which is an increase of 20.4% in loan debt from four years ago, in 2017.
  • Loans made by private institutions accounted for $451.7 billion in outstanding debt, with a total of 13.3 million recipients in 2017.
  • On the other hand, loans made by private institutions in 2021, amounted to $545.3 billion in student debt, with a total of 13.5 million recipients — which is an increase of 20.7% in student debt from four years ago, in 2017.
  • Loans made by proprietary institutions amounted to $277.9 billion outstanding debt in 2021, which is an increase of 14.4% from four years ago, in 2017 and only a 6.3% increase from one year ago, in 2020.
  • A total of $14.2 billion of student loan debt were loans made by foreign institutions in 2017, an amount that is approximately 32.4% lower than the loans made by the same institutions in 2021 ($19.7 billion).
  • Public institutions have the highest amount of student loan debt, a total of $699.7 billion in 2021, with a total of 25.0 million recipients.
  • Foreign institutions have the lowest amount of student loan debt, a total of $19.7 billion in 2021, with a total of 0.2 million borrowers.
  • Outstanding student loan debt is higher in public institutions compared to private institutions, by approximately 24.8% ($699.7 billion and $545.3 billion, respectively).
  • Outstanding student loan debt is higher in public institutions compared to proprietary institutions by around 86.2% ($699.7 billion and $277.9 billion, respectively).
  • “Other” institutions (could be any of the aforementioned) comprise $49.0 billion in outstanding loan debt in 2021, across 10.2 million recipients. These are loans made prior to 2004, which cannot be linked to any specific institution type.
*Data includes reports from the fourth fiscal quarter of each year. *Other: Includes older consolidation loans that cannot be linked to specific institution types. *2021 data includes reports from the third (most recent) fiscal quarter of the year. *Data includes Direct Loan, Federal Family Education Loan, and Perkins Loan borrowers in an open loan status.
Year Public Private Proprietary Foreign Other
Dollars (Billions) Recip. (Millions) Dollars (Billions) Recip.
(Millions)
Dollars (Billions) Recip. (Millions) Dollars (Billions) Recip. (Millions) Dollars (Billions) Recip. (Millions)
2017 $581.1 24.3 $451.7 13.3 $242.9 12.3 $14.2 0.1 $82.1 7.9
2018 $617.6 24.9 $478.5 13.5 $245.6 12.2 $15.5 0.1 $88.2 7.9
2019 $641.9 25.0 $501.8 13.6 $254.6 12.2 $16.9 0.2 $100.2 10.3
2020 $662.2 25.1 $520.2 13.7 $261.3 12.3 $18.1 0.2 $105.1 10.2
2021 $699.7 25.0 $545.3 13.5 $277.9 12.4 $19.7 0.2 $49.0 10.2

Outstanding student loan debt is higher in public institutions compared to private institutions, by approximately 24.8% ($699.7 billion and $545.3 billion).

Historical Average Student Loan Amount Per Academic Year

The table below includes the average loan amounts per Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) enrollment. The average amount is lower than loans per borrower, because it is calculated with the total FTE enrollment number. Some may be students who have not received any type of loans at all. Additionally, loans in this section are calculated per academic year.

  • The average loan per student in the 2020-21 academic year is $6,820, which is an increase of 435% from five decades ago, in the 1971-72 academic year ($1,276).
  • The number of FTE enrollment has also doubled within the last five decades, from over seven million in 1971-1972 to over 14 million in 2020-21.
  • In the 1990-91 academic year, the total federal and nonfederal loan amount among FTE enrollments was $20,698 million, amounting to an average of $2,110 per student.
  • In 2001-02, the total federal and nonfederal loan amount was $63,805 million, which is an average of $5,497 per FTE student.
  • In 2010-11, the average student loan amount across over 15 million FTE enrollments was $8,594.
  • The total federal and nonfederal loan amount has increased drastically, by 951% (even after adjusting for inflation) from 1971-71 to 2020-21 (from $9,122 to $95,877).
  • From the 2019-20 to the 2020-21 academic year, the total FTE federal and nonfederal loan amount has experienced a decrease of 9.3% (from $105,743 to $95,877).
  • From the 2010-11 academic year to now, the total FTE loan amount has kept decreasing rather than increasing, as it did in previous years. The total number of FTE enrollments has also decreased during this time frame.
*Adjusted for inflation. *Undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Year Total FTE
Enrollment
Total Federal &
Nonfederal Loans (Millions)
Average Loan Per
Student
1971-72 7,148,575 $9,122 $1,276
1975-76 8,479,688 $7,550 $890
1980-81 8,819,013 $19,236 $2,181
1985-86 8,943,433 $19,732 $2,206
1990-91 9,807,400 $20,698 $2,110
1995-96 10,159,983 $46,245 $4,552
2000-01 11,110,474 $59,291 $5,336
2001-02 11,607,663 $63,805 $5,497
2002-03 12,168,161 $73,547 $6,044
2003-04 12,521,262 $84,839 $6,776
2004-05 12,830,766 $94,124 $7,336
2005-06 13,027,167 $99,230 $7,617
2006-07 13,224,503 $104,570 $7,907
2007-08 13,595,962 $113,585 $8,354
2008-09 14,199,392 $117,794 $8,296
2009-10 15,291,112 $130,489 $8,534
2010-11 15,726,881 $135,149 $8,594
2011-12 15,665,677 $132,754 $8,474
2012-13 15,372,284 $126,203 $8,210
2013-14 15,190,004 $123,176 $8,109
2014-15 15,038,118 $117,721 $7,828
2015-16 14,852,642 $116,012 $7,811
2016-17 14,697,639 $114,287 $7,776
2017-18 14,639,804 $111,164 $7,593
2018-19 14,625,051 $107,562 $7,355
2019-20 14,523,210 $105,743 $7,281
2020-21 14,057,976 $95,877 $6,820

From 2010-11 to the 2020-21 academic year, the total FTE loan amount has kept decreasing rather than increasing, as it did in previous years. The total number of FTE enrollments has also decreased within this time frame.