Student Loan Default and Delinquency Statistics

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

Year3-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
StateStudent loan delinquency rate
West Virginia11.0%
South Carolina9.1%
New Mexico8.7%
North Carolina8.0%
Rhode Island6.1%
New Jersey5.8%
South Dakota5.3%
North Dakota5.0%
New York4.9%
New Hampshire4.8%

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
StatusNo. of borrowers (million)
On schedule, balance reducing11.52
On schedule, balance growing28.58
90+ days delinquent0.27
In default3.00

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
RaceDefault Rate
All Students16.20%
Multiple Races23%

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
Degree statusDefault rate
Bachelor’s degree or higher7.9%
Associate degree21.9%
Undergrad certificate44.3%
No degree45.0%

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
Income bracketDefault Rate
Bottom 25%41.0%
25 – 49%28.2%
50 – 74%22.1%
Top 25%13.6%

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
RankSchoolDefault Rate
1Laurus College20%
2Provo College18%
3Mountain State College18%
4Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale18%
5North Central Kansas Technical College14%
6John A Gupton College13%
7SUNY College of Technology at Delhi13%
8Nazarene Bible College13%
9Bristol University12%
10University of Charleston12%

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 
RankSchoolDefault Rate
1Fairfield University1%
2Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences1%
3Brigham Young University-Provo1%
4Bethesda University2%
5Catholic University of America2%
6Elmhurst College2%
7Dordt College2%
8Boston College2%
9Gordon College2%
10Concordia College at Moorhead2%