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You may have seen reports and articles about the student loan crisis in America. More than 43 million people of all ages in the US are in debt for pursuing a college degree. After all, total student loan debt hit $1.54 trillion in the first quarter of 2020, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Obviously, this number is alarming to many people—it’s more than the country’s total credit card debt. In addition to being a lot of money, these loans are difficult for many people to repay: millions default on their student loans and even more fail to progress towards becoming student debt free. Another 2019 Federal Reserve study found that “only about 36% of borrowers reduced their debt in the past twelve months.” As a college freshman or whose son or daughter you are, you may be concerned about these statistics. Many families dread debts that could take years or even decades to pay off. Importantly, student debt isn’t just a problem for young people: Americans over age 60 owed more than $86 billion in 2019. The good news is that student loans can be a very powerful tool for accessing University education. Current federal loan rates are lower than ever before, and federal loans have important safeguards that can help you stay on track, even when your financial situation is difficult. Private loans can fill in the extra gaps that you have. But it’s important to consider your circumstances and understand context when planning student loans. General Student Loan Debt Statistics Let’s look at some fundamentals of student loan debt in the US (Source: NY Federal Reserve): or delinquent: less than 30 years 10.8 percent went to college and incurred some debt: 55 percent Payoff average monthly fee for people with student loan debt: $200 to $299 In 2016, Citizens Bank compiled a survey for its “Millennials in Debt” study. They interviewed college graduates age 35 and younger with student loans. The study showed: People spend 18% of their current salary on student loan payments, and 60% of respondents expect to pay off student loans for undergraduate programs by age 40. Undergraduate and Graduate. What types of loans do college students get when earning a bachelor’s degree? The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) released a report, “Student Debt and the Class of 2018”. They interviewed recent college graduates about their student loan debt. Among college graduates from the four-year public and private for-profit colleges surveyed, 65% had student loans. These college seniors average $29,200 in student loan debt. Debts at for-profit colleges are even higher. In 2016, 83% of for-profit four-year college graduates had student loans. These students graduated with an average debt of $39,900. This study doesn’t just cover federal student loans. For graduates who participated in the study, 17% of their loans came from private lenders. When federal loans don’t cover all of their college costs, students often take out private loans to fill the gap. Graduate Program Student Loan Debt Graduate students also deal with student loan debt. They are often faced with high loan amounts due to the costs of pursuing an advanced degree. Add to that the fact that they may still have student loan debt from their degree program and are facing massive student loan debt. Based on statistics compiled by the US Department of Education, the average cumulative student loan debt of recent college graduates who completed an advanced degree in 2018 was: Medicine (Doctorate): $246,000 Health Sciences (Doctorate): $202,400 Law: $145,500 Education (Doctorate): $111,900 Non-Academic PhD: $98,800 Other Non-PhD: $132,200 What Does Average Student Loan Debt Mean to You? It’s easy to look at a pile of statistics about student loan debt and get discouraged or scared. What does this mean for you? First, student loan debt is very real and very common. It’s something that affects people’s lives everywhere. If you’re planning on going to college, you should start to get an idea of how much debt you’ll be facing after you graduate. Use what you know about your family’s finances to consider what you can afford. Secondly, every graduate must have a clear plan before entering the school. Research which schools or degree programs offer the best value – rather than best name or popularity. There may be a family tradition tied to a particular school. There are hundreds of reasons why a student might choose a particular college. But if you think you can take on more debt, you might want to reconsider your college plans to target schools that offer more financial aid or scholarships. It is very possible to reduce the amount of student loan debt you incur with some advance planning. You can maximize your money and get the best value by being more strategic in your college selection. It helps you compare college costs with data from multiple sources, showing you what you will actually pay for college based on the information you provide. Based on statistics and your family’s circumstances, student loan debt may seem inevitable – but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan ahead and make decisions to reduce or eliminate the need for help. You have the opportunity to make your student loans work for you by finding the college with the best value for your money.
Average Student Loan Debt Undergraduate
Kevin Payne is a freelance writer and travel and family budget expert for FamilyMoneyAdventure.com. Kevin lives in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife and four children.
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