The Average Student Loan Debt By Age (2024)

Average Student Loan Debt By Age

Student loans are one of the largest categories of debt, with over $1.7 trillion in outstanding student loans nationally. But student loans don’t affect every borrower equally. Some age groups have significantly more student debt than others.

For instance, people in their 50s have, on average, more than three times the student debt of the youngest borrowers, on average. The reasons for these disparities are complex, but the differences will likely remain for the foreseeable future. For now, we’ll take a look at various age groups and how they experience student loan debt differently.

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College Students and New Grads (Ages 24 and Under)

  • This group has the lowest debt per borrower, with an average of $14,085.
  • This age group also has the lowest total student debt at $100 billion.
  • The total number of borrowers in this age group has also decreased.

Student loan borrowers ages 24 and under have the lowest average debt per borrower of any age group, with an average of $14,085 per borrower.1 There are many reasons for this, including having less time for interest to accrue. Another possible reason is that this age group won’t include people who decided to go to college after 18.

Student debt for this age group has also decreased since 2017 in terms of the total outstanding debt and the number of borrowers, likely because college enrollment dipped during the pandemic. In fall 2023, college enrollment increased by 1.2%, the first increase since the pandemic began.3

Young Professionals (Ages 25-34)

  • This group has an average student loan debt of $32,760.
  • Borrowers aged 25 to 34 have the most outstanding student debt, totaling $491.4 billion.
  • There are more than twice as many borrowers in this age group than in the 24-and-under group.

The 25-34 age group represents the first time people experience a major student loan debt burden. The group has an average balance of $32,760 per borrower and $491.4 billion worth of debt nationally. Other age groups have slightly larger student loan balances, but this group is very close to the peak. This age group also has the largest total number of people, with 15 million borrowers.

It’s no surprise to see significantly higher student loan balances at this age. There are more than twice as many borrowers as those under age 24. Many people in this age group have already completed bachelor’s degrees, and some have graduate and even post-graduate degrees. With much more schooling under their belts, this group also owes more in student loans.

The Peak Earning Years (Ages 35-49)

  • This group has the second-highest balance per borrower at $42,767.
  • In addition, they have the most student loans of any age group, totaling $624.4 billion.
  • Student debt has increased for this group since 2017.

People in the 35-to-49-year-old age group are beginning to enter their peak earning years, which is good considering they also have some of the highest student loan balances. As have most age groups, the number of borrowers in the 35-49 demographic and the total student debt they carry has increased since 2017. This group also has the largest amount of delinquent student loans, with more than $8.5 billion in loans classified as 31-90 days delinquent.

Today, people ages 35 to 49 have $133 billion more in total student debt than those 25 to 34. In 2017, the difference was just $7.3 billion. Despite the substantial increase in total student loan debt for this group, the total number of borrowers increased by 1.3 million borrowers, which accounts for the high balance per borrower.

Student Debt While Nearing Retirement (Ages 50 to 61)

  • People in this age group have the most debt per borrower, with an average of $44,206.
  • Total student debt for this group has increased by 45% since 2017.
  • The total outstanding debt for this group is $109.8 billion.

People in the 50-to-61 age group have the highest total student debt and one of the fastest-growing total student debt. This is concerning, especially when we consider the reality this group may face. For instance, many of the people in this age range are Gen X — those born in the mid-1960s to the late-1970s. Retirement savings are consistently lower for Gen Xers with student debt than for Gen Xers with no student debt.4

In other words, people in this age group may have the highest debt per borrower, and some may have relatively low retirement savings at the same time. That holds true even while some people in this age range are nearing retirement. For these people, student loan debt could threaten their financial security in retirement.

Many things could help explain the debt burden for people in this age group. For instance, the oldest members of this group began attending college in the early 1980s when the cost of higher education began to substantially increase. Before this period, college costs were mostly stable. 

Another consideration is that Gen X is one of the first generations for which defined contribution plans like 401(k) plans began to replace benefit (pension) plans.5 The shift of responsibility for one’s own savings meant that people may not have prioritized debt repayment. This could help explain the higher student loan balances.

Student Loan Debt in the Later Years (Ages 62 and Older)

  • Borrowers age 62 and over have average student loan balances of $40,667.
  • Total outstanding student loan debt has more than doubled for this group since 2017.
  • The number of total borrowers has increased by more than 50%.

Despite being eligible to start collecting Social Security, people aged 62 and older still have significant amounts of student debt. The amount of debt for people in this group has increased significantly since 2017. At that time, there were 1.7 million borrowers with an average student loan balance of $30,529. Today, 2.7 million people in this age group with student loan debt carry an average balance of $40,667 per borrower.

In other words, people in this group have about $10,000 more in student debt than they had just seven years ago. There are many possible explanations for this, including loans they took out for their own education in addition to Parent PLUS loans. They may have used the latter to help pay for college for their children or other family members.

Another possible root cause is income-driven repayment (IDR) plans. These plans can extend payments for 20 to 25 years.6 This can make payments more manageable but also add interest to the overall debt. Seniors are also more likely to default on student loans, which can lead to added interest and fees.7

Average Student Loan Debt by Age and Location

Student loan debt can vary substantially depending on age and location. The table below uses data from to show the total debt each age group has by state/U.S. territory and the total number of borrowers. But this table goes one step further to show the average debt per borrower in each location.

Average Debt Among Selected Age Groups

State/TerritoryAverage Debt – 25 to 34Average Debt – 50 to 61
District of Columbia$53,106$52,500
New Hampshire$30,952$49,573
New Jersey$34,837$51,029
New Mexico$26,511$41,692
New York$37,116$47,942
North Carolina$34,401$47,318
North Dakota$26,979$36,842
Puerto Rico$29,120$31,540
Rhode Island$31,579$41,916
South Carolina$34,620$46,970
South Dakota$28,806$38,400
West Virginia$29,934$36,928

The Long-Term Impact of Student Debt

Student debt can have a significant impact on individuals, families, and the economy as a whole. Unfortunately, most of the impact is not particularly positive.

For instance, the long-term impacts could include:

Less retirement savings: As mentioned earlier, some people are already saving less for retirement due to higher student loan payments.

Delayed homeownership: An increased debt burden may leave some people with less money left at the end of the month, making it more difficult to save for a down payment on a home.

Reduced consumer spending: Having more student debt may mean people have less discretionary income. This means less consumer spending and, potentially, a slower economy.

Retirement crisis: As this article has highlighted, many borrowers are carrying higher unpaid debt balances later in life. At the same time, some older Americans with student debt have less savings, which could make it difficult to afford basic necessities when they retire.

These are just a few of the potential impacts of student debt. These high student loan balances are a relatively new phenomenon, and there may be far-reaching consequences we haven’t yet considered.

Potential Solutions

Student loans are a complex problem with many causes; similarly, the solution will be neither simple nor easy. But the right approach can begin to address this growing problem.

Targeted Student Loan Forgiveness

One of the best ways to address high student loan balances is with targeted student loan forgiveness programs like Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and fixing problems with eligibility and program administration.

The Biden Administration has been working on targeted student loan forgiveness with its Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan.8 Similar policies could help address the growing student loan burden.

Lower College Costs

The high cost of attending college is one reason for the increase in student loan balances. As mentioned earlier, the cost of college was relatively stable before the 1980s. But college costs began to increase at the beginning of that decade and haven’t slowed. Reducing the cost of college is easier said than done, but possible strategies might include increasing state funding for public colleges and universities and implementing tuition control measures.

Better Transparency and Accountability

A lack of transparency and accountability for universities and the cost of attendance is one contributor to high college costs. Requiring colleges and universities to provide accurate estimates of the true cost of attending their programs and the potential debt consequences would go a long way in addressing this issue.

In addition, initiatives that hold colleges and universities accountable for graduation rates and job placement could also help. Some efforts in this area are already underway, but they should be implemented fully.9

In Conclusion

Student loan debt doesn’t affect every person equally. Of the $1.7 trillion national student loan debt, some generations have much more debt than others. For instance, people 24 and under have an average student debt of $14,085, while people 50 to 61 have an average debt of $44,206. Idaho residents ages 25 to 34 have an average student debt of $ 27,031 compared to $53,106 for the same age group in Washington, D.C.

Carrying student loan debt has many impacts on a person’s financial life, including reduced retirement savings, delayed homeownership, and less consumer spending. But the problem is not insurmountable. Solutions like targeted debt relief, lower college costs, and more transparency and accountability can reduce the student debt burden.

More Student Loan Debt Statistics

Average Student Loan Debt Per Month
Average Student Loan Debt by Degree
Average Student Loan Debt by Year
Average Student Loan Debt by State
Average Student Loan Debt by Generation
Average Student Loan Debt by Race

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