More On: Student Debt
As the student debt debate continues, here is some data that proves how serious the problem is…
The student debt debate continues, and I thought it would be helpful to present some data to give a sense of how serious the problem is. Of course, when something moves from "OK" to "crisis" varies from observer to observer, and the weight of debt might feel like anything from a gnat to an elephant to individual borrowers.
I'll only mention a few points. Media stories frequently mention total student debt — $1.8 trillion! – but this is insufficient to appreciate the situation. You should at the very least know how many borrowers there are, what they borrowed for, and when they should expect to be paid back.
As seen in the table below, a four-year degree and beyond has a high payoff, with a recent bachelor's grad who borrows likely paying only 6.2 percent of their starting salary toward debt repayment. And 45 percent of undergrads did not borrow. Furthermore, grants now account for a significantly bigger portion of undergraduate financial help than loans.
However, shortly before COVID-19, a huge portion of debt was not in "regular" payments – in school, grace, or repayment – and everyone was put into zero-interest forbearance. This shows that many people were having trouble repaying their debts. Furthermore, African Americans have higher debt loads than other races, with a higher percentage of borrowers having repayment issues, raising worries about racial inequities. Still, there does not appear to be a significant enough student debt crisis to justify wholesale cancellation, especially given that taxpayers will be responsible for any outstanding debt.
All data is from the most recent sources that I am aware of, and spans the years 2016 through 2022.
Total Student Loan Debt: $1.8 trillion
Total Federal Student Loan Debt: $1.6 trillion
Total Federal Borrowers: 43.4 million
Federal Debt per Borrower: $37,004 (Total Federal Debt/Total Federal Borrowers)
Some College: $0.3 million
Associate’s Degree: $0.4 million
Bachelor’s Degree: $1.2 million
Master’s Degree: $1.6 million
Doctoral Degree: $2.4 million
Professional Degree: $3.1 million
Average Annual Payment As a Share of Salary [($287.54*12)/$55,260] * 100: 6.2%
African American: 14%
African American: 14%
African American: $44,880
African American: 30%
African American: 80%