Student loans are growing, but borrowers are repaying them on time

Typical undergrads owe $24,000, graduate students $61,300


Research Triangle Park, NC— $1.3 trillion. That is how much Americans owe in student loans.

While the number is staggering, according to a new report developed by RTI International for the U.S. Department of Education, graduates are making their payments.

The majority of graduates who borrowed, 69 percent, are repaying their loans and doing so on time. Only 5 percent of 2007-08 borrowers defaulted, while 17 percent have fully-paid off their loans.

“Most borrowers who earn a bachelor’s degree are well placed to succeed and pay back their loans without too much difficulty,” said Jennie Woo, report author and research education analyst at RTI.  “The problems of loan repayment mainly concern students who did not earn a bachelor’s degree.”

Other notable findings from the study include:

  • Undergraduate students owed on average $24,000, while graduate students owed $61,300 on average
  • Students who borrowed higher amounts in terms of federal loans were more likely to default on loans or be delinquent than those who borrowed less
  • The average debt burden—the percent of salary that goes toward loan payment—was around 10 percent

Findings from the report were based on data collected from the second follow-up to the 2008 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study, which describes the enrollment and employment experiences of a national sample of 2007–08 bachelor’s degree recipients four years after graduation.

To read the entire report, visit NCES’s website.

To learn more about RTI’s work in education, visit our Education and Workforce Development page.