Median American has no federal student loan debt

Less than half of Americans have student loan debt, which means that the median debt is $ 0. But the average student loan debt for Americans is just under $ 5,000.

President Joe announced Biden on April 6 his government will extend the pause for repayment of federal student loans until August 31, 2022. This is the sixth extension of the pause since it began in March 2020.

Several Democrats have called on Biden to go further cancel student debt instead of extending the pause. In turn, other politicians and public figures have argued against student debt write-offs. Author Matthew Yglesias, in his argument against student debt relief, claimed that the average American has $ 0 in student loan debt.

Iglesias uses a term that many have not heard of since high school – the middle is the exact middle of a set of numbers. So if you put all Americans in a range from minimum student debt to highest student debt, Yglesias claims that the person in the middle of this line will have $ 0 in student loan debt.


Does the average American have $ 0 in a federal student loan?



This is true.

Yes, the average American has $ 0 in a federal student loan because less than half of Americans have student loans. But that does not take into account the huge debt owed by 43 million Americans.


If you let all Americans owe nothing on federal student loans to those who owe the most, the person right in the middle would actually owe $ 0 in student loans. This is because there are 43 million Americans who owe federal student debt, according to federal student loan portfoliocompared to the total population of 331 million people, per US census.

But an average number is not the same as the average. The average is the total debt divided by the total population and is a much more commonly used calculation.

If you were to calculate the average federal student debt for all Americans, I would get $ 4,853.96. Understand this by taking the total student debt – $ 1,611 trillion – and dividing the total U.S. population by that – 331,893,745 in the Census Bureau’s most recent estimate.

These data strictly relate to federal student loan debt, which excludes private student loans. The Educational Data Initiative says $ 1.611 trillion of the $ 1.749 trillion in student loan debt is federal debt. The rest is private loan debt. There is no federal data on the number of Americans with private student loan debt, but there is no federal student debt.

According to Educational Data Initiative, 65% of 2021 college students graduated with student debt. The Institute for College Access & Success said that in 2019, 62% of seniors graduated with student debt.

And many Americans attended college but did not graduate. While more than half of American adults 25 and older have attended at least one college, less than half remain in college for more than two years. The Census says 48.4% of the population aged 25 and over have a degree of at least two years and 37.9% of the population aged 25 and over have a degree of at least four years.

Pew Research found that in 2016, the middle borrower with outstanding student loan debt owed $ 17,000 for his own education. Among borrowers with less than a degree – students who went to a community college, business school or dropped out of school before graduation – the average debt they reported was about $ 10,000. For borrowers with a university degree, the median was $ 25,000. For graduate borrowers, the median student loan debt he reported was $ 40,000.

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