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Student loan debt in the U.S. is growing and shows no signs of slowing down. And along with the increase in student loan debt, unfortunately, has come an increase in the amount of debt that has fallen into delinquency.
The total student loan debt burden in the U.S. recently surpassed $1.4 trillion, bringing the average student loan balance per U.S. consumer up to $35,620 as of the second quarter (Q2) of 2019, according to Experian data.
As part of our ongoing look at student loan debt in the U.S., Experian analyzed internal consumer credit data, as well as data from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), to see how consumers are managing their loans. Read on for our insights and analysis.
Borrowers Ages 25 to 34 Have the Most Student Loan Debt
When it comes to federal direct loans—which include direct subsidized loans, direct unsubsidized loans, direct PLUS loans and direct consolidation loans—people ages 25 to 34 owe a total of $454.6 billion, according to the most recent data from the DOE.
|Outstanding Student Loan Debt by Age Group|
|Age Range||Outstanding Direct Loan Amount|
|Average FICO® Score*|
|24 and younger||$123B||674|
|25 to 34||$454.6B||665|
|35 to 49||$406.8B||682|
|50 to 61||$171.3B||709|
|62 and older||$42.8B||750|
Source: Debt data is from the U.S. Department of Education. Average FICO® Score data is from Experian Q2 2019.
Consumers Ages 35 to 49 Saw the Largest Increase in Debt
While borrowers ages 25 to 34 had the most debt, consumers in the next age group up—35 to 49—saw the largest increase in their debt from the previous year. Borrowers 35 to 49 increased their total direct loan debt by $45.9 billion since the second quarter of 2018, according to data from the DOE. One factor that's increasing balances held by these borrowers is that many of them are taking out loans to help finance 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.
|Increase in Student Loan Balances by Age Group|
|Age Range||Outstanding Direct Loan Amount Q2 2018||Outstanding Direct Loan Amount Q2 2019||Amount Increase|
|24 and Younger||$127.2B||$123B||-$4.2B|
|25 to 34||$431.6B||$454.6B||+$23B|
|35 to 49||$360.9B||$406.8B||+$45.9B|
|50 to 61||$150.6B||$171.3B||+$20.7B|
|62 and Older||$34.4B||$42.8B||+$8.4B|
Source: U.S. Department of Education
Borrowers Ages 35 to 49 Carry the Highest Delinquent Balances
In addition to seeing the largest growth in their overall direct loan balance, consumers ages 35 to 49 are also struggling the most when it comes to paying back their debt on time. The age group consistently has the highest amount past due in all five delinquency stages, according to data from the DOE.
A total of $15.5 billion in direct loans held by borrowers ages 35 to 49 was newly delinquent (31 to 90 days late). That's more than double the amount of newly delinquent debt held by 50- to 61-year-olds.
|Amount Delinquent by Age Group and Days Past Due|
|Age Range||31-90 Days|
|181-270 Days Delinquent||271-260 Days Delinquent||361+ Days|
|24 and younger||$2.2B||$2B||$0.85B||$0.51B||$0.04B|
|25 to 34||$12B||$8.8B||$4B||$3.2B||$0.8B|
|35 to 49||$15.5B||$10.5B||$4.7B||$3.8B||$1B|
|50 to 61||$6.8B||$4.4B||$2B||$1.6B||$0.5B|
|62 and older||$1.6B||$1.1B||$0.45B||$0.5B||$0.1B|
Source: U.S. Department of Education
Consumers With Most Delinquent Debt Still Maintain OK Credit Scores
It may come as a surprise that consumers with more delinquent student loan debt were not the ones with the lowest credit scores. Because payment history is the most important aspect of credit scores, logic would dictate that people consistently delinquent on loan payments would also maintain the lowest scores. While these consumers didn't have the worst scores of all the age groups, their collective average FICO® Score of 682 does fall more than 20 points below the national average of 703.
The consumers who held the most direct loan debt—ages 24 to 35—also had the lowest average credit score of any age group. And while there are several factors that could explain this, including that younger consumers may not have yet built a lengthy credit history, the trend defies other findings that show high debt doesn't necessarily equal low credit scores.
This analysis looks only at direct loans, which includes direct subsidized loans, direct unsubsidized loans, direct PLUS Loans and direct consolidation loans. The data is from the U.S. Department of Education and is the most recent data available at the time of publication.
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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.