The student loan debt crisis seems to only be deepening as the costs of higher education continues to climb, students take on more and more debt, and a greater percentage of borrowers find themselves in financial distress.
Even with recent reforms to student loan programs, including the introduction of two new income-driven repayment plans, PAYE and REPAYE, millions continue to struggle. Check out the latest figures:
- Total outstanding student loan debt in the United States is somewhere between $1.2 trillion and $1.3 trillion.
- An estimated 40 million Americans (or approximately 1 in 9) currently have student loans.
- Student loan debt constitutes the second-largest type of consumer debt in America. There is more student loan debt than there is credit card debt or automobile debt. Only mortgages are higher.
- About 70% of undergrads are leaving college with student debt.
- The average student loan debt burden for an American college graduate in 2015 was $35,000. This represents an increase compared to 2014 ($33,000) and 2013 ($30,000).
- An estimated 25% of student loan borrowers are in delinquency or default on their student loans.
- An estimated 36,000 Americans had portions of their Social Security checks seized due to defaulted federal student loans.
It is difficult to grasp these staggering figures, but these are clear indicators that we need massive, wide-scale reform. The numbers are just not sustainable, and economists are growing increasingly concerned that student loan debt burdens are preventing people from participating in economic activity that drives growth (such as purchasing homes and cars), and borrowers are putting off important financial decisions like getting married and saving for retirement.
Something’s got to give. And as the 2016 presidential election moves forward following the Iowa caucuses, it’s more important than ever for student loan debt to be a part of the national conversation.
Sources: The Center for Financial Literacy, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, The Institute for College Access and Success, Edvisors, the Government Accountability Office, and Marketwatch.