About 42.9 million Americans have federal student loans, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education. That means about 1 in 8 (12.9%) people in the United States carry student loan debt, per an analysis of census data.
Total outstanding student loan debt is $1.59 trillion, according to second quarter of 2021 data from the federal government. Private student loan debt comprises around 7.89% of that total, or around $1.728 billion, according to 2021 data from MeasureOne, a higher education data and analytics firm.
Here are some key stats about the 43 million Americans with student debt:
Who is the typical student loan borrower?
A typical student loan borrower, statistically, has left school with nearly $30,000 in debt. The average among the class of 2019 was $28,950, according to the Institute for College Access and Success. About 25% went to graduate school, according to the Brookings Institution; the rest sought associate or bachelor’s degrees.
In general, women borrow more for college compared with men, and Black students borrow more compared with all other races and ethnicities.
Student debt is most common in the 25-to-34 age group, but the greatest amount of debt is owed by those 35 to 49 — more than $600 billion in undergraduate, graduate and parent loans, as well as payments stretched out by forbearance or income-driven repayment plans.
Student loan debt by age
The age group with the most federal student debt is 35- to 49-year-olds, with $601.7 billion. But the most borrowers are in the 25-to-34 age group. Here’s how student loan debt breaks down by age:
Millions of borrowers
Billions in debt
24 and younger
25 to 34
35 to 49
50 to 61
62 and older
Typical debt amounts by age group
Across all age groups, the typical amount of student debt for most borrowers is between $10,000 and $40,000. Those ages 35 to 49 are the group with the greatest amount of high debt ($200,000 and more). Here’s a more detailed picture of the typical amounts held by each group:
Among those 24 and younger, most (2.11 million) have between $10,000 and $20,000 of student debt.
Among 25- to 34-year-olds, most (3.56 million) have between $20,000 and $40,000 of student debt.
Among 35- to 49-year-olds, most (2.87 million) have between $20,000 and $40,000 of student debt.
Among 50- to 61-year-olds, most (1.16 million) have between $20,000 and $40,000 of student debt.
Among those age 62 and older, most (490,000) have less than $5,000 of debt.
Source: Studentaid.gov, Federal Student Loan Portfolio by Age and Debt Size, March 31, 2021
Student loan debt by race and gender
Asian and Hispanic student loan borrowers have the lowest debt loads compared with all other races and ethnicities, while Black student loan borrowers tend to hold the greatest average debt, federal data shows.
The average debt disparity is exacerbated even further for Black women, who carry higher average debt than women across all races and ethnicities, according to the American Association of University Women.
Here’s what average student debt looks like for men and women across race and ethnicity:
Hispanic or Latinx
Women hold two-thirds of all outstanding loan debt compared with men, according to an analysis of federal data by the AAUW. There's little data available that includes gender-nonconforming student borrowers.
One of the primary reasons women hold more debt is because they earn the majority of degrees at all levels — from certificates to doctor’s degrees, according to federal data.
But carrying greater amounts of debt is a problem since women, by and large, tend to have less earning power than men: Women with bachelor’s degrees earn, on average, 74 cents on the dollar compared with men with that degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The largest average debt loads are held by women who attend for-profit four-year schools — about 44% more than women who attend public four-year institutions. Here’s what student debt totals for women look like across types of four-year institutions:
Type of institution
Mean debt borrowed by women
Private nonprofit four-year
Average student loan amounts by debt type
$19,928: Associate Degree Nursing (ADN)
$23,711: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
$47,321: Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)