Latest Student Loan Data Shows Size and Diversity of Borrowers

Student Debt

Newly released reports provide insight into student aid recipients — by age, geographic location and school type.  Here’s a few highlights:

  • Five percent of student borrowers carry more than $100,000 in federal student loans, while 57 percent of borrowers owe less than $20,000.
  • Student loan recipients living in Washington, D.C., have, on average, the highest student loan balance in the country, roughly $50,000.
  • More than a quarter of a million borrowers — 1.6 percent of all student loan recipients — defaulted on their loans in fiscal year 2017.
  • Forty-two percent of outstanding student loans are from public colleges and universities, 32 percent from private schools and the remainder from proprietary and foreign institutions.

Since the implementation of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, which eliminated new Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans after June 30, 2010, the make-up of the outstanding loan portfolio has dramatically shifted.

Math GirlOutstanding Federal Student Loan Portfolio Is $1.34 Trillion

The Direct Loan portfolio now represents more than three-fourths of the outstanding loan portfolio while the FFEL portfolio represents 23 percent and Perkins Loans comprise less than one percent.  The federally managed portfolio, which includes Direct Loans and FFEL Program loans owned by the Department, is now more than $1.1 trillion, representing more than 83 percent of the total portfolio.

The growth of the portfolio has slowed since 2010 as new disbursements have declined.  The total federal loan portfolio has increased just 6.0 percent – about $75 billion – with the FFEL portfolio decreasing by 8.8 percent and the DL portfolio increasing by 11.6 percent.

Outstanding Loan Portfolio Borrower Characteristics

By total dollar balance, 42 percent of the outstanding dollars are from public postsecondary institutions; 32 percent from private; 17 percent from proprietary; and one percent from foreign schools.  Eight percent of the dollars within the portfolio are in the “Other” category.  “Other” includes consolidation loans made prior to 2004 that cannot currently be linked to a specific school in the Enterprise Data Warehouse.

In addition to school type, the new reports highlight the age, federal student loan debt size, and location of borrowers in the outstanding federal student loan portfolio.  Borrowers ages 25-34 account for more than a third of borrowers in the portfolio followed closely by those borrowers aged 35-49.  Collectively, these borrowers’ outstanding loans represent 72 percent of outstanding dollars.  Although younger borrowers (24 and under) account for 18.6 percent of all borrowers, their loan balances are just 9.4 percent of total outstanding dollars. Borrowers ages 51 and up, account for about 16.5 percent of all borrowers and 18.5 percent of total dollars in the portfolio.

For borrowers with less than 40K of student loan debt, borrowers’ federal student loan debt size is relatively evenly distributed across the following segments: <$5K, $5-$10K, $10-20K, and $20k-$40K. While 57 percent of borrowers owe less than 20K in federal student loans, 5 percent of borrowers owe more than $100K in federal student loans.

Those states with the highest populations, such as California and Texas, also have the most outstanding student loan debt while states with smaller populations such as Wyoming and Alaska, have the least amount of student loan debt; borrowers living in Washington, D.C., have the highest average federal student loan balance at nearly $50K.

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