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Student Loan Debt Climbs to $1.4 Trillion in 2019

Student loan debt in the U.S. reached another all-time high of $1.4 trillion in the first quarter (Q1) of 2019, according to Experian data. That's an increase of 116% in 10 years and represents one of the country's most significant and widespread financial burdens to date.

Student Loan Debt Since 2009
(in trillions)
2019 $1.41
2018 $1.33
2017 $1.28
2016 $1.17
2015 $1.13
2014 $1.06
2013 $0.94
2012 $0.68
2011 $0.81
2010 $0.73
2009 $0.65

Note: Data is for Q1 of each year
Source: Experian

Student loans represent the second-largest credit debt for Americans, trailing only mortgage loans. Nationwide, there are more than 148 million outstanding student loan accounts.

U.S. Consumer Debt Balances by Credit Product
(in trillions)
Mortgage$9.52
Student Loan$1.41
Auto Loan & Lease$1.28
Credit Card$.81
Personal Loan$.30
Retail Card$.09

Note: Data is for Q1 2019
Source: Experian

Student Loan Debt in the United States

Americans carry, on average, $35,359 in student loan debt. That's a 26% increase in five years and a 2% increase compared with the first quarter of 2018.


Student Loan Debt Snapshot
Average student loan debt per borrower$35,359
Total student loan debt$1.4 trillion
Percentage of consumers with a student loan14.4%
Washington, D.C., had the highest average student loan debt$55,882
South Dakota had the lowest average student loan debt$28,868
Average tuition and fees for a public four-year in-state college$10,230
Average tuition and fees for a public four-year out-of-state college$26,290
Average tuition for a private nonprofit four-year college$35,830

Note: Experian data is from Q1 2019
Source: Experian and The College Board

Student Loan Debt by Age

It's no secret that college is getting more expensive, but one surprising trend is the growth of student loan debt among older people. Student loan debt peaks at age 34, the youngest age among credit products including credit cards (age 49), auto loans (age 46), personal loans (age 68) and mortgages (age 41).

However, the average amount of student loan debt among older Americans is increasing:

  • Student loan debt for borrowers in their 50s increased by 5.6% from 2018
  • Student loan debt for borrowers in their 60s increased by 4.5% from 2018
  • Student loan debt for borrowers in their 70s increased by 3.4% from 2018

Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that there are 17% more student loan borrowers age 62 and older in 2019 than the previous year, the largest increase among age groups. The number of borrowers between the ages of 50 and 61 increased 10% for the same time period, the second-highest increase, followed by borrowers between the ages of 35 and 49, with an increase of just over 7%.

A deeper look into federal student loan data shows the percentage of parent borrowers (with their child as the recipient) with parent PLUS loans has increased 13% since 2015. The amount of money borrowed in parent PLUS loans has grown 38% in the same time. The number of parent PLUS borrowers increased 3% and the amount borrowed increased 7% year over year from 2018 to 2019.

Student Loan Debt by State

Mississippi saw the biggest increase in average student loan debt among states—36%—between Q1 2015 and Q1 2019. During that period, Georgia increased its average student loan debt by 34%, followed by North Carolina at 34%, New Mexico at 33% and Tennessee at 32%.

Among states with the most student loan debt, the District of Columbia had the highest average debt of $55,729 for Q1 2019. Georgia ranked second, with an average student loan balance of $40,692, followed by Maryland at $40,630, New York at $37,753 and California at $37,468. Here is the ranking of all the states and their average student loan balances:

Average Student Loan Debt by State
State20182019% Change
Alabama$33,742$35,6745.7%
Alaska$30,085$32,0966.7%
Arizona$32,705$34,7406.2%
Arkansas$30,345$32,2036.1%
California$35,238$37,4686.3%
Colorado$33,521$35,6586.4%
Connecticut$34,203$36,0255.3%
Delaware$34,000$36,0986.2%
District of Columbia$52,684$55,7295.8%
Florida$33,833$36,7068.5%
Georgia$37,644$40,6928.1%
Hawaii$33,084$35,0095.8%
Idaho$31,121$32,3514.0%
Illinois$34,821$36,9756.2%
Indiana$30,218$31,9925.9%
Iowa$27,886$29,4165.5%
Kansas$29,409$31,2396.2%
Kentucky$30,134$32,1746.8%
Louisiana$32,516$34,5086.1%
Maine$30,864$32,5215.4%
Maryland$38,496$40,6305.5%
Massachusetts$34,671$36,1814.4%
Michigan$33,243$35,3076.2%
Minnesota$30,395$32,0525.5%
Mississippi$32,431$35,4789.4%
Missouri$31,752$33,6075.8%
Montana$29,250$31,0306.1%
Nebraska$28,183$30,0136.5%
Nevada$31,629$33,8637.1%
New Hampshire$31,931$34,0726.7%
New Jersey$35,104$37,3706.5%
New Mexico$30,884$33,6108.8%
New York$36,032$37,7534.8%
North Carolina$33,959$36,2576.8%
North Dakota$27,779$29,2675.4%
Ohio$32,575$34,3655.5%
Oklahoma$29,884$31,6736.0%
Oregon$35,047$36,9895.5%
Pennsylvania$32,698$34,8406.6%
Rhode Island$31,739$33,3735.1%
South Carolina$34,515$36,5525.9%
South Dakota$27,082$28,7826.3%
Tennessee$32,788$35,0166.8%
Texas$30,677$32,4415.8%
Utah$30,244$31,6714.7%
Vermont$32,083$34,2216.7%
Virginia$34,930$36,8855.6%
Washington$31,978$34,1936.9%
West Virginia$29,931$31,2224.3%
Wisconsin$28,955$30,5565.5%
Wyoming$27,780$28,9744.3%

Note: Data is for Q1 of each year
Source: Experian

Student Loan Debt by Metro Area

Unsurprisingly, many of the U.S. metro areas with high amounts of student loan debt are home to one or more universities. In 2019, the Durham, North Carolina, metro area had the highest average student loan debt of $47,955. Corvallis, Oregon, came in second with $46,164, while Ann Arbor, Michigan, trailed closely behind with $45,668. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California, ranked fourth with $45,396, and Gainesville, Florida, rounded out the top five with $44,508 in average student loan debt.

Average Student Loan Debt by Metro Area
RankMetro Area20182019% Change
1Durham, NC $43,614$47,95510.0%
2Corvalis, OR $42,976$46,1647.4%
3Ann Arbor, MI $43,182$45,6685.8%
4Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA $43,599$45,3964.1%
5Gainesville, FL $40,221$44,50810.7%
6Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, CA $40,424$44,2949.6%
7Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV $41,502$43,7975.5%
8San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA $41,193$43,6746.0%
9Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA $40,215$43,2907.6%
10Charlottesville, VA $39,754$42,4766.8%
11Montgomery, AL $39,533$42,3477.1%
12Iowa City, IA $39,165$41,7276.5%
13Savannah, GA $36,582$41,58313.7%
14Jackson, MS $38,670$41,4537.2%
15Tuscaloosa, AL $39,014$40,8044.6%
16Columbia, SC $38,766$40,7785.2%
17Tallahassee, FL $38,458$40,5045.3%
18Rochester, MN $39,227$40,4493.1%
19Santa Fe, NM $36,764$40,44710.0%
20Morgantown, WV $39,803$40,4301.6%
21Columbia, MO $37,145$40,1468.1%
22Charleston-North Charleston, SC $37,329$40,1067.4%
23Jackson, TN $37,216$40,1037.8%
24Albany, GA $36,085$39,93510.7%
25Boulder, CO $37,171$39,8427.2%
26New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA $36,695$39,8258.5%
27New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA $37,763$39,7075.1%
28Macon, GA $37,020$39,6317.1%
29Baltimore-Towson, MD $37,421$39,4785.5%
30Winston-Salem, NC $37,919$39,2343.5%
31Ithaca, NY $36,372$39,1927.8%
32Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA $36,728$39,1816.7%
33Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT $37,014$39,0645.5%
34Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL $35,868$39,0598.9%
35Athens-Clarke County, GA $37,072$38,8544.8%
36Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI $36,540$38,7516.1%
37Columbus, GA-AL $35,552$38,7409.0%
38Greenville, NC $36,302$38,6946.6%
39Memphis, TN-AR-MS $35,955$38,4697.0%
40Huntsville, AL $35,904$38,2156.4%
41Birmingham-Hoover, AL $36,109$38,1205.6%
42Lexington-Fayette, KY $35,080$38,0398.4%
43Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, NC-SC $35,724$37,9616.3%
44Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD $35,538$37,9546.8%
45San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA $35,571$37,9436.7%
46Hattiesburg, MS $35,546$37,8666.5%
47Raleigh-Cary, NC $35,521$37,8546.6%
48Auburn-Opelika, AL $37,369$37,8281.2%
49Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, OR-WA $35,813$37,8185.6%
50Trenton-Ewing, NJ $36,998$37,7191.9%

Note: Data is for Q1 of each year
Source: Experian

Student Loan Debt Delinquencies

With more student loans in the U.S. than ever before, the good news is that borrowers seem to be on the right track when making their monthly payments. Just 4.76% of all student loans were delinquent as of Q1 2019.

In the past three years, the total number of delinquent loans has shrunk by 6%. For loans that were 30 to 59 days past due, delinquency rates decreased by 46%. For loans 60 to 90 days past due, delinquency rates shrank by 47%. The only delinquencies that did not show drastic signs of changing were loans 90 or more days past due, which went down by just 3%.

How to Manage Your Student Loans

Student loans are a type of installment loan, and any missed or late payments can have a serious impact on your credit scores. Payment history is the most important aspect of your FICO® Score*, and even one late or missed payment can cause your score to drop.

If you have student loans and are struggling with repayment, several options may be able to help you. If your loans were issued by the federal government, you may be able to adjust your repayment based on what you can afford, and you might also be able to consolidate your debt. Loans issued by private banks often have different options, so check with your lender for more information.

Methodology: The analysis results provided are based on an Experian-created statistically relevant aggregate sampling of our consumer credit database from Q1 2019, which may include use of the FICO® Score 8 version. Different sampling parameters may generate different findings compared with other similar analyses. 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.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.

This article was originally published on December 21, 2018, and has been updated.

*Credit score calculated based on FICO® Score 8 model. Your lender or insurer may use a different FICO® Score than FICO® Score 8, or another type of credit score altogether. Learn more.

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