Student Loan Debt Statistics: 2024

U.S. student loan debt totals $1.74 trillion as of September 2023.
Anna Helhoski
Eliza Haverstock
By Eliza Haverstock and  Anna Helhoski 
Updated
Edited by Karen Gaudette Brewer

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

In 2024, student loan borrowers in the United States owe a collective $1.74 trillion in federal and private student loan debt, according to the most recent quarterly tally by the Federal Reserve.

Federal Reserve. Consumer Credit Outstanding. Accessed Jan 31, 2024.

Here are the key 2024 student loan debt statistics to know, including how much borrowers owe, the types of loans they have and how they're repaying them.

Get the scoop on student loans
Stay up to date on how student loan forgiveness and repayment may affect your finances.

Average student loan debt

Fifty-four percent of bachelor’s degree recipients graduated with student debt in 2020-21, according to the most recent data available from College Board. Among these graduates, the average student debt burden was $29,100

.

The average U.S. household with student debt owes $55,347, according to NerdWallet’s 2023 household debt study.

Here's what average student loan debt by type:

Debt type

Average debt

$29,100

$77,300

$29,526

$132,740

$51,850

$206,924

$293,900

$167,711

$40,000 - $54,999

$147,258

1. 2022 College Board 2. 2019-20 National Center for Education Statistics 3. Q4 2023, Federal Student Aid Portfolio 4. 2019-20 National Center for Education Statistics 5. 2019-20 National Center for Education Statistics 6. 2023 Association of American Medical Colleges 7. 2022 American Dental Education Association 8. 2023 American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy 9. 2017 American Association of Colleges of Nursing 10. 2022 American Veterinary Medical Association

Who has student loan debt?

Roughly 43 million Americans have outstanding federal student loan debt — that's about 13% of the U.S. population, per census data.

Borrowers between the ages of 35 and 49 hold the most student debt, on average. Here’s the full breakdown by age group:

Age group

Total outstanding debt

Number of borrowers

Average debt per borrower

24 and younger

$100 billion

7.1 million

$14,085

25-34

$491.4 billion

15 million

$32,760

35-49

$624.4 billion

14.6 million

$42,767

50-61

$278.5 billion

6.3 million

$44,206

62 and older

$109.8 billion

2.7 million

$40,666

Source: Federal Student Aid, Portfolio by Age Q4 2023.

Among student borrowers, women take out an average of $31,276, while men borrow an average of $29,270, according to a 2021 data analysis by the American Association of University Women.

Black women owe a disproportionate amount of student debt. They hold 43% more undergraduate debt and nearly 99% more graduate school debt than their white woman counterparts 12 months after graduation, according to an April 2022 study by the nonprofit organization The Education Trust.

Total federal student loan debt

Most student loans — about 92.5% — are owned by the government.

  • Total federal student loan borrowers: 43.2 million.

  • Total outstanding federal student loan debt: $1.60 trillion.

Total private student loan debt

Private student loans account for 7.52% of all outstanding U.S. student loans as of September 2023.

  • Total outstanding private student loan debt: $130.28 billion.

Total Parent PLUS loan debt

Parents have one federal student loan option to help pay for their children's education: parent PLUS loans.

  • Total parent PLUS debt: $112.2 billion.

  • Total parent PLUS borrowers: 3.8 million. 

  • Average parent PLUS loan debt: $29,526.

Source: Federal Student Aid, Portfolio by Loan Type Q4 2023.

Expected college debt for a 2023 high school grad

A 2023 high school graduate could expect to borrow $37,300 for their bachelor’s degree, according to a May 2023 NerdWallet analysis of National Center for Education Statistics data that assumes a five-year undergraduate career. This projection dipped slightly from 2022, when high school graduates were poised to take on up to $39,500 in student loan debt.

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 school: 6.1 million.

  • Federal borrowers in grace period: 1.6 million.

  • Federal loan borrowers in repayment: 25.7 million.

  • Federal loan borrowers in deferment: 3 million.

  • Federal loan borrowers with loans in forbearance: 1.2 million.

  • Federal loan borrowers in default: 4.4 million.

Source: Federal Student Aid, Portfolio by Loan Status Q4 2023.

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.

Unlike federal loans, private student loans were not on hold during the pandemic.

  • Percentage of private loans in repayment: 74.89%.

  • Percentage of private loans in deferment: 17.28%.

  • Percentage of private loans in forbearance: 1.30%.

  • Percentage of private loans in grace period: 6.53%. 

  • Percentage of private loans in repayment that are 90+ days past due: 1.58%.

Student loan forgiveness

The government can forgive federal student loans through programs like income-driven repayment (IDR) and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Borrowers who’ve been defrauded by their schools may also be eligible for loan forgiveness.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

  • Total debt forgiven: $56.7 billion.

  • Number of borrowers to receive forgiveness: 793,400. 

  • Average amount of forgiveness per borrower: $71,465.  

  • Total PSLF applicants (includes applications that haven’t yet been processed): 6,147,812. 

Source: U.S. Department of Education, press release, Jan. 19, 2024 and Federal Student Aid Office, Public Service Loan Forgiveness Data, June 2023. This data includes Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness and the PSLF waiver.

Income-driven repayment forgiveness

  • Total debt forgiven: $45.7 billion. 

  • Number of borrowers to receive forgiveness: 930,500.

  • Average amount of forgiveness per borrower: $49,113.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, press release, Dec. 6, 2023.

Prior to the spring of 2023, only about 157 borrowers had ever received IDR loan forgiveness because the Education Department and servicers had mismanaged the program, the Government Accountability Office found. The automatic IDR account adjustment is underway to rectify these past missteps.

Borrower defense to repayment & closed school discharge

  • Total debt forgiven: $22.5 billion. 

  • Number of borrowers to receive loan discharge: 1.3 million. 

Total and permanent disability discharge

  • Total debt forgiven: $11.7 billion.

  • Number of borrowers to receive loan discharge: 513,000 borrowers.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, press release, Dec. 6, 2023.

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 a couple of years of entering repayment. These rates have plummeted since the pandemic payment pause, which expired in September 2023, also froze default proceedings on federal student loans through September 2024.

  • Public non-profit colleges: 2.3%.

  • Private non-profit colleges: 1.7%.

  • Private for-profit schools: 3.1%.

  • Foreign schools: 0.5%.

  • Total default rate: 2.3%.

Income-driven repayment use

Federal IDR plans cap monthly payments at 5% to 20% of a borrower’s discretionary income and forgive the balance remaining after 10 to 25 years, depending on the plan and loan type.

In August 2023, the Education Department launched a generous new IDR plan called Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE). It replaced a previous IDR plan called Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE). More than half of borrowers enrolled in SAVE qualify for $0 monthly payments, as of January 2024.

IDR plan

Borrowers enrolled

6.9 million

1.61 million

2.46 million

1 million

Sources: Federal Student Aid, Portfolio by Repayment Plan Q4 2023; U.S. Department of Education, press release, Jan. 11, 2024.

FAFSA completion

Students and their families must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be eligible for grants, scholarships, work-study and federal student loans. High school graduates who complete the FAFSA are 84% more likely to immediately enroll in postsecondary education.

  • Percentage of 2022 high school graduates who completed the FAFSA: 56%.

  • Percentage of 2022 high school graduates who did not complete the FAFSA: 44%.

  • Average Pell Grant amount award for eligible class of 2022 graduates: $4,686.

  • Total amount of Pell Grant money the class of 2022 left on the table by not completing the FAFSA: $3.58 billion.

Source: National College Attainment Network, “Pell Dollars Left on the Table,” January 2023.

Student loan refinancing from our partners

SoFi Student Refinancing logo
Check Rate

on SoFi

SoFi

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
SoFi Student Refinancing logo

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Fixed APR 

5.24% - 9.99%

Min. credit score 

650

Check Rate

on SoFi

Earnest Student Loan Refinance logo
Check Rate

on Earnest

Earnest

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Earnest Student Loan Refinance logo

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Fixed APR 

5.19% - 9.74%

Min. credit score 

650

Check Rate

on Earnest

Splash Financial Student Loan Refinance logo
Check Rate

on Splash Financial

Splash Financial

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Splash Financial Student Loan Refinance logo

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Fixed APR 

5.34% - 8.73%

Min. credit score 

650

Check Rate

on Splash Financial

Spot your saving opportunities
See your spending breakdown to show your top spending trends and where you can cut back.