The total student loan debt in the USA is more than $1.7 trillion. Meanwhile, 43.5 million people have student loan debt that is owed to the federal government. Not all people can or do repay these loans – leading to student loan delinquency and default.
Top student loan default and delinquency statistics
7% of all borrowers are in default – around 3 million people
After entering repayment post-graduation, 11% of borrowers default within the first year – meaning over 1 million borrowers default each year
Within 5 years of entering repayment – this number jumps to 25%
Borrowers had defaulted upon $124.4 billion by the end of 2022
Borrowers are more likely to default on their student loans if they meet any of the following criteria:
They attend for-profit colleges – borrowers who attend for-profit schools are 67% more likely to default on their student loans than borrowers from 4-year public colleges
They drop out of college – students who do not graduate are 3 times more likely to default than those who do
They are BIPOC (but particularly black borrowers) – black students are also 3 times more likely to default on their student loans than white students
In 2022, the student loan default rate was 2.3%
In 2012, this rate was 11.8% but it has dropped hugely due to the student loan repayment pause
78% of students make at least one late payment within the first five years of entering repayment
Within 1 year of entering repayment, this number is 40.9%
Some borrowers go in and out of delinqunency on multiple occasions – 6.4% of borrowers have done so five or more times
Those who have made late payments are often late on multiple payments:
44.7% of students who have made late payments have only done this on one occasion
32.5% of student who have made late payments have made 2 or 3 late payments
15.6% of student who have made late payments have made 5 or more late payments
Default vs Delinquency
What does defaulting on a student loan mean versus being in delinquency?
For federal student loans, to default means that you have missed scheduled repayments on your student loan for a period of time – this is often defined is either 90 or 270 days. This is more serious than being in delinquency.
Delinquency means that a borrower have missed or are late on at least one student loan repayment. Although this should be treated seriously and does have consequences, these are not as severe as they are for someone who has defaulted on their student loans.
Student loan default rate over the years
In 2015, the three-year student loan default rate was 11.8%
By 2022, this had fallen by 80.5% to 2.3%
Although the default rate was on a downward trend, it was accelerated greatly by the student loan repayment pause introduced during the covid-19 pandemic
The default rate had already fallen by 38.1% between 2015 and 2021
How is the three-year student loan default rate calculated?
The three-year default rate is the percentage of students who enter repayment and then default either within the same year or the following two years afterward (3 years).
3-year student loan default rate over the years
3-year default rate (%)
Student loan delinquency rates by state
West Virginia has the largest student loan delinquency rate of any state in the country – closely followed by Missouri and Mississippi
New Hampshire has the lowest delinquency rate in the country
Despite having the 4th largest student loan debt of any state in the country, New York has the 4th lowest delinquency rate
Student loan delinquency rate
Number of student loan borrowers by repayment status
92.45% of borrowers are repaying their student loans on time
0.62% of borrowers are delinquent by 90 days or more
6.93% of borrowers are in default
Only 26.56% of borrowers are making a dent in the student loan debt
65.89% of borrowers are making their payments on time but at a rate where their balance is still growing
No. of borrowers (million)
On schedule, balance reducing
On schedule, balance growing
90+ days delinquent
Student loan default rates by race
Almost 1 in every 3 black student loan borrowers has defaulted on their student loans
This is more than twice the rate of the average student
And 3 tiems the rate of white students
Asian students are the least likely of any ethnic group to default on their student loans
Student loan default rates by degree type
Arts and Humanities majors are the most likely to default on their student loans – they default at a rate of 26.33%
However, students with law degrees are most likely to fall into delinquency with 54.4% being delinquent at least once.
17.1% of law students go into delinquency 5 or more times making it the degree with the highest rate of 5 or more delinquencies
Bachelor’s degree or higher
Student loan default rates by family financial background
The family wealth of a student has a large impact on a students ability to repay
This could be for a number of reasons such as the family helping with loan repayments, family contacts allowing students to get better jobs after graduation or students attending private schools prior to entering higher education and therefore being admitted to better colleges and universities
25 – 49%
50 – 74%
Schools with the largest and smallest student loan default rates
The Open Education Database performed a study of 280 accredited colleges across the USA. One of the ranked criteria in their study is the student loan default rate and from this, we can determine the schools with the highest and lowest student loan default rates across the country that were included in the study.
This metric could be an indicator of a college’s ability to prepare their students for well-paying jobs as they either have or don’t have sufficient earnings to repay their student loans
Colleges with the largest student loan default rates
1 in every 5 students from Laurus College defaults on their student loan at some point
Mountain State College
Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale
North Central Kansas Technical College
John A Gupton College
SUNY College of Technology at Delhi
Nazarene Bible College
University of Charleston
Colleges with the smallest student loan default rates
At Fairfield Universitry, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and Brigham Young University-Provo only 1 in every 100
Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Brigham Young University-Provo
Catholic University of America
Concordia College at Moorhead
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