Baby Boomers’ Student Loan Debt Continues to Grow

Baby Boomers’ Student Loan Debt Continues to Grow article image.

Student loan debt is on the rise—and that's across all generations. According to Experian data, it's not just the younger consumers, like Generation Z and millennials, who are seeing spikes in student loans. In the past year, student loan balances increased across all generations, underscoring the nation's increasing reliance on student loans to pay for their own or their children's college education.

Baby boomers increased their student loan balances by 7% in the past year, according to Experian data from the first quarter (Q1) of 2019.

As part of our larger survey of student loan debt, and to find out more about baby boomers and student loan borrowing, Experian looked at consumer credit data from Q1 2019, comparing it against historical records to see how the generation borrowed compared with other age groups. Read on for our insight and analysis.

Baby Boomer Student Loan Debt Tops Most Age Groups

Baby boomers—consumers between the ages of 55 and 73—had the second-highest student loan balances of any generation in Q1 2019, according to Experian data. Boomers carried an average of $34,703 in student loan debt, trailing their younger peers from Generation X, who carried an average of $39,584 in Q1 2019.

The high balances among both of these generations is striking, as the youngest member of Generation X is 39 years old—considerably older than the average age of a college student. And while there is no limit to when someone can attend school and take a loan, a portion of these high balances is attributable to the increase in parents taking specialized student loans to fund their children's education. Nearly 800,000 parents borrowed through the federal government's Parent PLUS student loan program between 2017 and 2018, according to the Urban Institute.

After Gen X and baby boomers, millennials had the next highest average debt amount, followed by the silent generation and Generation Z.

Student Loan Balances by Generation
GenerationAverage FICO® Score Q1 2019Average Student Loan Balance Q1 2018Average Student Loan Balance Q1 2019Year-Over-Year Change
Generation Z668$11,476$12,5239%
Generation X688$37,280$39,5846%
Baby Boomers731$32,384$34,7037%
Silent Generation756$24,190$25,2224%

Source: Experian Q1 2019 data

Washington, D.C., Has Highest Average Student Loan Balances

Baby boomers in Washington, D.C., carried an average student loan balance of $44,711 in Q1 2019, according to Experian data. That's 26% higher than the national average of $35,359 and nearly $4,000 more than the next highest balance of any state.

Washington, D.C., was followed by Maryland, Georgia, New Jersey and Hawaii, which filled out the top five states for most student loan debt among baby boomers.

States With the Highest Baby Boomer Student Loan Balances
StateAverage FICO® ScoreAverage Student Loan BalanceAverage Total Debt
Washington, D.C.706$44,711$168,412
New Jersey737$39,662$109,951
Hawaii 748$39,304$164,939

Source: Experian Q1 2019 data

Baby Boomers in Most States Have Below Average Student Loan Balances

While average student loan balances among baby boomers increased over the past year, they came in lower than the national average in 38 states. Baby boomers in South Dakota carried the lowest student loan balances of all baby boomers, with an average student loan balance of $25,542 in Q1 2019. Iowa had the second-lowest average student loan balance, followed by Nebraska, Wisconsin and North Dakota.

States With the Least Baby Boomer Student Loan Debt
StateAverage FICO® ScoreAverage Student Loan BalanceAverage Total Debt
South Dakota757$25,542$71,465
North Dakota759$28,487$66,302

Source: Experian Q1 2019 data

States With Lowest Student Loan Balances Have Top FICO® Scores

Baby boomers in the five states with the lowest average student loan balances also had some of the highest credit scores of boomers across all states in Q1 2019. Of the top 10 states where baby boomers have the highest average FICO® Scores, five of them are the states with the lowest student loan balances.

You can learn more about student loan debt by checking out Experian's articles on student loans.

Methodology: The analysis results provided are based on an Experian-created statistically relevant aggregate sampling of our consumer credit database that may include use of the FICO® Score 8 version. Different sampling parameters may generate different findings compared with other similar analysis. Analyzed credit data did not contain personal identification information. Metro areas group counties and cities into specific geographic areas for population censuses and compilations of related statistical data.

FICO® is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the U.S. and other countries.