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Over half of American students go into debt to pay for college, with average tuition prices starting around $22,000 and climbing even higher for private schools and graduate degrees.
With such staggering totals, Americans are looking to politicians in the hopes of debt relief. But while President-elect Joe Biden has big plans, it's still unclear if and when some form of federal student loan forgiveness will be possible.
Collectively, U.S. student loan borrowers owe a total of $1.7 trillion in student debt, according to Federal Reserve data. Of all borrowers, consumers in their mid-30s had the highest balances in 2019, and with payments paused for most of 2020, that is more than likely still true.
But student loans don't just affect early and mid-careerists: According to Experian borrowers age 35 to 49 increased their direct loan debt by $45.9 billion last year. Much of this new debt is reportedly from 800,000 parents who borrowed Parent PLUS loans to help send their kids to college.
Here's a break down of student loan debt by age, looking at statistics from the U.S. Department of Education's Q4 2020 data:
As you can see, consumers age 62 and older have the lightest debt burden, followed by those age 24 and younger.
Here's the average balance per borrower, by age:
- 24 and younger: $14,807.69
- 25 to 34: $33,817.56
- 35 to 49: $42,373.23
- 50 to 61: $42,290.32
- 62 and older: $37,739.13
It's worth noting that, while age groups 35-to-49 and 50-to-61 have a similar average balance, the number of overall loan borrowers drastically decreases after age 49.
The standard repayment plan for federal student loans is calculated on a 10-year timeline, but borrowers can choose an income-driven repayment plan which allows them to make smaller payments over 20 years.
In a 2019 study from New York Life, which polled 2,200 adults about their financial mistakes, the average participant reported taking 18.5 years to pay off their student loans, starting at age 26 and ending at 45.
Student loans are currently in an interest-free forbearance period, but that's due to expire on January 31, 2021. Nearly 55% of federal student loan borrowers were not confident they'll be able to make payments consistently once the forbearance period ends, according to a recent Student Loan Hero study.
If you're worried about managing your student loans, it's important to begin to prepare for payments to resume. If you're enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan, the current freeze should still count toward your required payments. If you have any worries, contact your servicer to make sure your account is up-to-date with your correct information and ask them how they'll communicate any changes that federal legislation might bring next year.
You can also sign up for a credit monitoring service that lets you view your loan balances compared to your revolving balances and all of your credit accounts. CreditWise® from Capital One is a free credit monitoring service that doesn't require you to enter a credit card number to sign up, and you can use it to see how your student loans are impacting your credit score while monitoring your progress as you pay them down.
Credit bureaus monitored
TransUnion and Experian
Credit scoring model used
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