Who Holds America’s $1.5-Trillion Student-Loan Debt?
Student-loan debt in the United States has ballooned to an unprecedented size. In 2009, total student-loan debt stood at $720 billion.
Over the past decade, it has more than doubled to $1.51 trillion.
Except for mortgages, student loans top all other sources of debt held by Americans, including car loans and credit cards.
That’s a huge number. Let’s put it in context.
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Who Holds America's $1.5-Trillion Student-Loan Debt?
March 3, 2020
The story of who holds America’s student debt is told — by necessity — using data from a variety of sources.
Information on federal loans comes from data published quarterly by the Federal Student Aid office in its Federal Student Loan Portfolio as well as from The Chronicle of Higher Education’s FOIA requests to the Department of Education. The debt calculator at the end of the presentation is calculated from the growth rate of the federal student debt from the fourth fiscal quarter of 2018 to the same period in 2019.
The estimates on all loans, both public and private, come from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Federal Reserve Board. The surveys used are from Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s “Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit,” the Consumer Credit Panel’s Student Loan Update, the Federal Reserve Board’s “Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking,” and the Federal Reserve Board’s “Survey of Consumer Finances”. Data from the Federal Reserve Board come from surveys, so there is a margin of error associated with each of these estimates; however, they provide insight that is otherwise not available through public data.
The default rates by race came from The Chronicle’s analysis of “The Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study,” and the demographics of students over the past 10 years came from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, both produced by the National Center for Education Statistics.
The company market values came from the 2019 Fortune 500 rankings.
This presentation relies on the most recent data available at publication. Because of rounding, timing, and system differences, the sums of these figures may differ slightly across statistics.
Contributions from Jonathan Custodio, Emma Dill, Grace Elletson, Lauren Fisher, Will Jarvis, Wesley Jenkins, Liam Knox, Bennett Leckrone, and Kathryn Palmer.