What Is the Average Student Loan Debt After College?

By Kayla McCormack · November 15, 2022 · 7 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

What Is the Average Student Loan Debt After College?

The amount of student loan debt a person takes on can vary based on factors like the type of school they attended, whether or not they pursued an advanced degree, and whether they received any scholarships or not. According to data from The College Board, college graduates from the class of 2020 graduated with an average of $28,400 in student loan debt. Continue reading for more information on average student loan amounts.

Average Student Loan Debt After College

As of October 2022, the total amount of student loan debt was approximately $1.7 trillion and there are over 42.8 million borrowers in the country.

That means there are a lot of us trying to understand and navigate the student loan landscape. How much are we borrowing? And what can we do to decrease the amount we owe?

As briefly mentioned, The College Board found that cumulative debt levels upon graduation — meaning the debt students had accumulated over the four years of undergrad — was $28,400 per borrower for those graduating in 2020 (the latest stats available). And nearly 54% of all graduates carried student loan debt.

How Average Student Loan Debt Has Changed in the Last 10+ Years

It’s no secret that college is expensive and has only gotten more expensive in the last 10 years. According to data compiled by U.S. News, the cost of attending college with in-state tuition at public National Universities increased by nearly 175% from 2002 to 2022.

Over roughly that same period of time (from 2010 to 2020), total outstanding student loan debt grew from $845 billion to $1.7 trillion in order to cover those costs. Though as of the third quarter of 2022, the total outstanding federal student loan debt is $1.6 trillion. This student loan debt crisis is taking a financial toll on graduating students, potentially affecting their credit and home-buying prospects.

Recommended: Scholarship Search Tool

Average Student Loan Debt

There is good news, though: the growth of student loan debt is slowing. While the average student loan debt continues to grow slightly, it’s leveled off in recent years. The average cumulative student debt was $23,765 for 2009 graduates. The class of 2021 had a cumulative average of $29,719 according to U.S. News .

Public vs Private Four-Year Schools Student Loan Debt

The College Board’s annual survey of trends in student aid 2021 found that graduates of public four-year institutions had an average college debt of $26,700, compared to private school borrowers, who graduated with an average debt of $33,600.

It should be noted that numbers for for-profit schools are harder to come by, but what is true across analyses is that students at for-profit schools take out more in student loans and default at higher rates.

Recommended: College Finder Tool

Undergraduate vs Graduate Student Debt

Let’s look at this from a different angle. How does undergrad debt compare to grad school debt? The College Board’s annual survey of student aid trends found that on average, undergraduates took out $6,470 in either subsidized or unsubsidized federal loans in the 2020-2021 school year. That same year, graduate students took out $18,800 in subsidized or unsubsidized federal loans.

If you are planning to get an advanced degree, prepare for a potential mortgage-sized debt load. As an example, over half of people with law degrees have at least $150,000 in student loan debt according to the American Bar Association’s 2021 Law School Student Loan Debt survey.

The Average Student Loan Debt for Borrowers Under 25

There are about 6.9 million people under the age of 24 with student loan debt. As a group, they owe just over $101 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Q3 2022 report .

Average College Debt by State

When we look at the average student loan debt broken down by school and region, it also becomes clear there is a range of highs and lows across the country. The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) puts together a comprehensive report on national student debt, using numbers self-reported to college guide publisher Peterson’s from thousands of colleges and universities.

The numbers reported by schools vary but it does allow for a geographic look at the average student loan debt by state.

The highest debt states in 2020, the last year for reported numbers, were New Hampshire ($39,928), Delaware ($39,705), Pennsylvania ($39,375), and Rhode Island ($36,791). The states where college graduates had the lowest average debt were Utah ($18,344), New Mexico ($20,868), California ($21,125) and Nevada ($21,357).

Average Student Loan Payment

A borrower’s monthly student loan payment can vary quite a bit depending on the amount of debt they carry and the type of payment plan they have selected. According to data from the Federal Reserve, typical payments for student loans can range from $200 to $299. Though, as noted, your monthly payments may be more or less depending on factors like your loan amount and payment plan.

How Long It Takes to Pay Off Student Loans

But even as the growth of new student loan debt is slowing, there continue to be outstanding student loan amounts that haven’t yet been paid off — which helps to explain why the total loan balances are hitting record highs.

If you have a federal loan when you graduate, you can choose a repayment plan. The default option is the Standard Repayment plan, which is 10 years of fixed monthly payments.

Recommended: Student Loan Repayment Options

There are a few other options that extend the repayment term or allow you to repay on an income-driven plan. Many graduates take longer than 10 years to pay back their loans, and about a third of borrowers have gone into student loan default in the past 20 years, according to survey data from The Pew Charitable Trusts .

Though, it’s worth noting that the U.S. Department of Education announced in April 2022 that it would eliminate the negative consequences for those with defaulted student loans as a part of the student loan pause that began due to Covid-19 and was extended by the Biden-Harris administration.

There isn’t a lot of data on exactly how long it takes students to pay off their student loans, partially because it varies based on how big your loan amount is and partially because some numbers count consolidation as loan repayment — when in reality you’ve taken out a new loan with different terms.

The U.S. Department of Education lists the maximum repayment timelines for Direct Consolidation loans, which for borrowers holding between $20,000 and $40,000 in student loan debt is 20 years. Direct Consolidation loans allow borrowers to consolidate their federal loans into a single loan.

Recommended: Student Loan Options: What is Refinancing vs. Consolidation?

But it is worth noting: the sooner you pay off your loan, the more you save in the long run because you aren’t accruing interest for as long. Part of the reason so many students struggle to make payments is that their student loan payments are large in comparison to their incomes.

The interest rate can be a big factor in that. While interest rates on federal student loans are fixed and set annually by the government, interest rates on private student loans can range from 3% to 13%. Use SoFi’s student loan calculator to figure out how your monthly payments could change at different interest rates.

Refinancing Student Loans With SoFi

Those looking for options to manage student loan payments might consider student loan refinancing. This process involves borrowing a new loan from a private lender. Lenders review applicant credit history and earning potential (among other financial factors) to determine the new loan terms, with a new, hopefully, lower interest rate.

Borrowers who refinance student loans with a private lender may also be able to adjust their repayment term. Extending the term could lower monthly payments but may end up making the loan more expensive over the life of the loan.

Those who want to continue to take advantage of federal loan benefits like income-based repayment may not want to refinance with a private lender, because all federal student loan benefits are lost when a federal student loan is refinanced.

It takes just a few minutes to get a quote to see what refinancing with SoFi could do for your student loans. The application is entirely online and there are no fees.

Learn more about refinancing your student loans with SoFi.


Is $50,000 a lot of student debt?

Yes, $50,000 is a lot of student loan debt. According to data from The College Board, the average amount of debt a 2020 graduate carried was $28,400.

How many people have student loan debt in the US?

In the U.S. as of Q3 2022, there are approximately 42.8 million people who have student loan debt, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education.

What is the average someone pays a month for student loans?

The average someone pays per month for student loans will vary based on factors like the total loan amount and the repayment plan they have selected.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are looking to refinance federal student loans, please be aware that the White House has announced up to $20,000 of student loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for qualifying borrowers whose student loans are federally held. Additionally, the federal student loan payment pause and interest holiday has been extended beyond December 31, 2022. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans with SoFi, since the amount or portion of your federal student debt that you refinance will no longer qualify for the federal loan payment suspension, interest waiver, or any other current or future benefits applicable to federal loans. If you qualify for federal student loan forgiveness and still wish to refinance, leave unrefinanced the amount you expect to be forgiven to receive your federal benefit.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

All your finances.
All in one app.

SoFi QR code, Download now, scan this with your phone’s camera

All your finances.
All in one app.

App Store rating

SoFi iOS App, Download on the App Store
SoFi Android App, Get it on Google Play

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender