How Many Americans Have Student Loan Debt?

By Jennifer Calonia · April 25, 2022 · 5 minute read

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How Many Americans Have Student Loan Debt?

Student loan debt and education continue to go hand in hand. According to the latest figures from the Federal Reserve, 30% of U.S. adults had student loan debt upon leaving school.

Federal student loan relief under the CARES Act, set to end on Aug. 31, 2022, has paused monthly federal student loan payments, enacted a 0% interest rate, and halted loan default collections.

However, as the relief window comes to an end, Americans must continue to face their outstanding student debt.

How Many People in the USA Have Student Loans?

The total federal student loan debt crisis amounts to $1.61 trillion in unpaid federal student loans. This outstanding balance is spread among 43.4 million U.S. borrowers.

A 2021 MeasureOne report found that unpaid balances within the federal student loan system account for 92% of U.S. student loan debt. However, U.S. adults are also burdened by private student loans.

As of Q2 2021, Americans have amassed a total of $131.1 billion in unpaid private student loans — accounting for nearly 8% of outstanding student loans in the country.

Who Is the Typical Borrower?

The CollegeBoard’s “2021 Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid” report found that the average four-year, bachelor’s degree graduate left school with an average $26,700 in student debt. Bachelor’s recipients from private nonprofit institutions left school with an average of $33,600 in student debt.

Student Loan Distribution by Institution

Borrowers who were enrolled in a public, four-year U.S. institution received the highest distribution of federal Direct Loan funding.

Nearly 45% of distributed Direct Subsidized Loan funds went toward students enrolled at a four-year school, as did 41% of Direct Unsubsidized Loan funding.

Similarly, 51% of disbursed Parent PLUS Loan funds — designed for parent borrowers on behalf of their college-bound dependant — were for a public, four-year education.

Graduate and professional students who attended a private nonprofit college also received a variety of federal loan funding. Graduate-level students enrolled at a private nonprofit institution saw the highest percentage of total dispersed Grad PLUS Loan funds (68%).

In some cases, student loans for certificate programs may also be borrowed. Some certificate programs are offered at two-year institutions, which make up about 11% of Direct Subsidized loans.

Student Loan Debt by Age

US Adults ages 35 to 49 have a total aggregated balance of $613 billion in federal loans across 14.3 million borrowers. On average, a borrower in this age group has a student debt balance of $42,900, according to CollegeBoard data.


Total Balance

Average Balance per Borrower

Up to age 24 $113.7 billion $15,200
25 to 34 $500.6 billion $33.600
35 to 49 $613.0 billion $42,900
50 to 61 $273.7 billion $43,400
62 and older $92.7 billion $38,600

The next-highest total balance, at $500.6 billion, falls on borrowers ages 24 to 34. The 14.3 million borrowers in this age group have an average loan balance of $33,600.

Borrowers with the highest average balance ($43,400) are those who are ages 50 to 61 — this group accounts for 6.3 million borrowers in the U.S.

Student Loan Debt by Race and Gender

According to a report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), two-thirds of the total U.S. student loan debt is held by women.

Men borrow an average of $29,270 in student loans. By contrast, each woman borrower carries an average of $31,276 in student debt.

Race/Ethnicity (Women)

Cumulative Debt

American Indian or Alaska Native $36,184.40
Asian $27,606.60
Black or African American $41,466.05
Hispanic or Latina $29,302.45
Pacific Islander/Hawaiian $38,747.44
White $33,851.98

Black women face the greatest hurdle when it comes to student loan debt. According to AAUW, one year after graduating, Black or African American women carry the highest cumulative student debt by race and ethnicity at $41,466.05. This figure includes the principal amount and student loan interest rate charges.

What Percentage of College Students Take Out Student Loans?

The percentage of students who borrow student loans vary, based on factors like degree type and institution.

According to the latest data published by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in the 2019-2020 academic year, 31.8% of undergraduate students received student loans from the federal student loan program.

About 47.6% of bachelor-seeking students attending a private nonprofit received federal student loans, while 13.5% of bachelor’s students enrolled at a public college received federal loan aid.

Among master’s degree students, 51.5% who attended a private nonprofit school received federal aid, compared to 40.5% who attended a public institution.

Finally, 57.4% of students pursuing a non-professional doctorate degree at a private nonprofit received federal loans. Of those who attended a public college, 33.4% of doctoral candidates got a federal loan.

What Is the Total Amount of Money Owed by Americans on Student Loans?

Collectively, Americans have an outstanding student loan balance of $1.61 trillion in federal student loans. This includes Direct Loans, Federal Family Education Loans, and Perkins Loans. However, this figure doesn’t include education loans from the private sector.

Total private student loans that U.S. adults still owe is estimated at $131.1 billion, according to MeasureOne.

The Takeaway

Americans are carrying a significant student debt burden after leaving school. New and currently enrolled college students will likely see continued rising education costs.

Despite these figures, one of the benefits of student loans is that they can provide access to college for students who might otherwise not be able to finance their education. SoFi Private Student Loans lets eligible students borrow up to the total cost of attendance, through a fast and completely digital process.

Find out if you pre-qualified in just a few minutes.


Who holds the majority of student debt?

According to the CollegeBoard, borrowers ages 35 to 49 hold the majority of outstanding federal student debt at $613 billion, with an average balance of $42,900 per borrower.

What is the average student debt in the US?

The average student debt for a public, four-year bachelor’s degree graduate is $26,700, based on 2021 figures from the CollegeBoard.

What is the total amount of student debt owed by Americans?

Americans owe $1.75 trillion in federal and private student loans.

Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio

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