Student loan borrowers in the United States owe a collective $1.73 trillion in federal and private student loan debt as of the first quarter of 2021, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
Here are key student loan debt statistics to know: How much borrowers owe, the types of loans they have and how they're repaying them.
Average student loan debt
Sixty-two percent of the class of 2019 graduated with student debt, according to the most recent data available from The Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit organization that works to improve higher education access and affordability. Among these graduates, the average student loan debt was $28,950.
The average U.S. household with student debt owes $57,520, according to NerdWallet’s 2020 household debt study.
Students who pursue professional degree programs can expect to take on much more. Here's how their average student loan debt stacks up with the most recent available data for each:
Sources: The Institute for College Access and Success, Association of American Medical Colleges, American Dental Education Association, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, American Veterinary Medical Association, National Center for Education Statistics.
» MORE: Student loan payment calculator
Total federal student loan debt
Most student loans — about 92%, according to a June 2020 report by MeasureOne, an academic data firm — are owned by the U.S. Department of Education.
Total federal student loan borrowers: 42.9 million.
Total outstanding federal student loan debt: $1.56 trillion.
Source: Federal Student Aid, Q4 2020
Total private student loan debt
Private student loans make up 7.87% of the total outstanding U.S. student loans, according to MeasureOne.
Total outstanding private student loan debt: $131.81 billion.
Student loan repayment status
Federal student loans
If borrowers can't make payments, they can postpone them through deferment or forbearance. Interest typically accrues during these periods, but borrowers with subsidized loans don't owe the interest that accrues during deferment.
Federal loan borrowers in repayment: 27.1 million.
Federal loan borrowers with loans in deferment: 3.1 million.
Federal loan borrowers with loans in forbearance: 23 million.
The number of borrowers in forbearance spiked in 2020 due to the student loan relief offered by the government. The Office of Federal Student Aid has also temporarily suspended delinquency and default data until March 31, 2021.
Source: Federal Student Aid, Q3 2020
» MORE: Deferment vs. forbearance
Private student loans
Borrowers can also postpone private student loan payments via deferment or forbearance, but interest always accrues regardless of whether the borrower is making payments.
Percentage of outstanding private loan balance in deferment: 20.39%.
Percentage of outstanding private loan balance in forbearance: 5.16%.
Percentage of private loans in repayment that are 90+ days past due: 1.10%.
» MORE: Student loan payoff calculator
Student loan default
Student loan default happens after a period of missed payments. Most federal student loans enter default after roughly 270 days (or nine months) past due. Private student loans typically enter default after three missed payments (typically three months), but it can happen as soon as after one missed payment.
Below are the most recent cohort default rates among student loan borrowers who default within the next couple of years after entering repayment.
• Public non-profit colleges: 9.3%
• Private non-profit colleges: 6.7%
• Private for-profit schools: 14.7%
• Foreign schools: 2.9%
• Total default rate: 9.7%
Source: Federal Student Aid Sept. 2020
Income-driven repayment use
Federal income-driven repayment plans cap monthly payments at 10% to 20% of discretionary income and forgive the balance remaining after 20 or 25 years, depending on the plan.
Federal loan borrowers on an income-driven repayment plan: 8.97 million.
Federal loan borrowers on Income-Based Repayment: 3.55 million.
Federal loan borrowers on Revised Pay As You Earn: 3.20 million.
Federal loan borrowers on Pay As You Earn: 1.48 million.
Federal loan borrowers on Income-Contingent Repayment: 740,000.
Source: Federal Student Aid, Q3 2020
» MORE: Discretionary income calculator
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, is required to be eligible for grants, scholarships, work-study and federal student loans.
Percentage of 2018 high school graduates who did not complete the FAFSA: 37%.
Average amount each Pell Grant-eligible graduate left on the table by not completing the FAFSA: $3,908.
Total amount the class of 2018 left on the table by not completing the FAFSA: $2.6 billion.
» MORE: NerdWallet Guide to FAFSA