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Table of Contents
- Average student loan debt
- Who has student loan debt?
- Total federal student loan debt
- Total private student loan debt
- Total Parent PLUS loan debt
- Expected college debt for a 2023 high school grad
- Student loan repayment status
- Student loan forgiveness
- Student loan default
- Income-driven repayment use
- FAFSA completion
Student loan borrowers in the United States owe a collective $1.78 trillion in federal and private student loan debt as of March 2023, according to the most recent quarterly tally by the Federal Reserve.
The figures cited below could change if the White House’s one-time student debt cancellation plan, which is currently on ice amid legal challenges, is allowed to proceed. The proposed relief would erase up to $20,000 in student debt for qualifying borrowers. Experts expect the Supreme Court to rule on student debt cancellation by the end of June 2023.
Here are key 2023 student loan debt statistics to know, including how much borrowers owe, the types of loans they have and how they're repaying them.
Average student loan debt
Fifty-five percent of the class of 2020 graduated with student debt, according to the most recent data available from College Board. Among these graduates, the average student loan debt was $28,400.
The average U.S. household with student debt owes $58,238, according to NerdWallet’s 2022 household debt study.
Here's what average student loan debt by type:
$19,928: Associate Degree Nursing (ADN)
$23,711: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
$47,321: Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
» MORE: Student loan payment calculator
Who has student loan debt?
Forty-five million Americans have student loan debt — that's about one in five U.S. adults (17.4%), according to an analysis of census data.
Those ages 25 to 34 are the most likely to hold student loan debt, but the greatest amount is owed by those 35 to 49 — more than $600 billion, federal data show.
Among all borrowers, women typically borrow more for college compared with men (and attain more degrees), according to 2021 data by the American Association of University Women. And Black students borrow more often and greater amounts compared with all other races and ethnicities, according to federal data.
Learn more about the characteristics of student loan borrowers here.
Total federal student loan debt
Most student loans — about 92% — are owned by the U.S. Department of Education.
Total federal student loan borrowers: 43.8 million.
Total outstanding federal student loan debt: $1.64 trillion.
Total private student loan debt
Private student loans make up roughly 8.3% of the total outstanding U.S. student loans as of March 2023, according to an analysis of data from the Federal Reserve and Federal Student Aid Office.
Total outstanding private student loan debt: $146.9 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: $107.6 billion.
Total parent PLUS borrowers: 3.7 million borrowers.
Average parent PLUS loan debt: $29,081.
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. All federal student loans have been in a federal forbearance since March 2020, and the pause is set to expire in the fall of 2023.
Thus, the number of borrowers in forbearance have spiked (and the number in repayment have plummeted) due to the automatic student loan payment pause that's been in place since March 2020.
Federal loan borrowers in school: 6.1 million.
Federal borrowers in grace period: 1 million.
Federal loan borrowers in repayment: 300,000.
Federal loan borrowers in deferment: 2.8 million.
Federal loan borrowers with loans in forbearance: 26.6 million.
Federal loan borrowers in default: 4.7 million
» 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: 17.49%.
Percentage of outstanding private loan balance in forbearance: 2.44%.
Percentage of private loans in repayment that are 90+ days past due: 0.94%.
» MORE: Student loan payoff calculator
Student loan forgiveness
Applications approved for federal student loan forgiveness:
Public Service Loan Forgiveness: 500,520 PSLF borrowers with processed discharges among 5,462,098 total applications — 9.1% approval rate. Total discharges processed included: 12,509 for PSLF and 6,495 for Temporary Expanded PSLF. The PSLF waiver has resulted in 482,908 discharges processed and $32.8 billion in debt discharged.
Total PSLF debt discharged: $34.3 billion.
Source: Federal student loan forgiveness data: March 2023. This data includes Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness and the PSLF waiver.
Income driven repayment forgiveness: 157 borrowers
Source: Federal data obtained by the Government Accountability Office: March 2022.
Borrower defense to repayment: 190,257 approved among 762,800 applications — 24.9% approval
Total debt discharged when combined with closed school discharge: $13 billion for 1 million borrowers.
Total and permanent disability discharge: $9 billion for more than 425,000 borrowers
Source: U.S. Department of Education, Aug. 16, 2022 press release
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 after entering repayment. These rates have plummeted since the pandemic payment pause on federal student loans.
• 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 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.
Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) (replaced by the SAVE plan in summer 2023)
Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
» 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. High school graduates who complete the FAFSA are 84% more likely to immediately enroll in postsecondary education, according to a 2019 report by the National College Attainment Network.
• Percentage of 2022 high school graduates who completed the FAFSA: 56%.
Cost of incompletion:
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.
» MORE: Guide to FAFSA
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