Student Loan Debt: An Infographic

These days, young adults have the potential for long-term debt coming at them from every direction. Credit card debt used to be a big problem for some, but nowadays soul-crushing student loan debt is the culprit just as often.  Student loan debt has reached epic proportions and is making a name for itself by burning holes in pockets, checkbooks, and bank accounts across the nation.

A four-year college education can cost as much as $100,000, ranging from $10-20,000 per semester.  As the mother of two small children, I find this startling to say the least.  Check out this infographic for more frightening statistics:

CCUS-Student Debt Infographic

How much student loan debt did you have?  How long did it take you to pay it off?  Or, are you still paying it off?



  1. says

    The numbers on older people who are still paying back student loans is interesting. I wonder what percent of those are loans they took out for children/grandchildren?

    As for the future, I find it really hard to believe that we’ll be paying $414k to send our kids to college in 2030. I have to imagine that either price pressure will bring that cost down or we’ll have found alternatives to the traditional model.

  2. Kathy says

    Nothing to worry about. When he campaigned on college campuses, the president has told us that student loans will all be forgiven.

  3. says

    Looking at those stats is certainly scary. Since I’m out if school and I don’t have kids yet, I suppose I’ve got some time. But I feel like something’s got to give. Don’t all bubbles burst?

  4. says

    Wow. Here’s a large reason why America is such a financial mess, huh? I just went to tech school. I don’t remember how long I had loans, or how much I had in loans, but it must not have been very much because there was no big hurrah or celebration when I paid them off.

  5. says

    I wonder if part of the problem is the expectations of young people and their parents. Does your kid really need an Ivy League education to be successful? No one is forcing us to attend these schools. And having an education from a prestigious university may help you get your first job, but after that it’s all about you working your butt off to get to where you want to go.

    • says

      I totally agree. It seems like ivy league schools have a lot to offer, but not that much than your local state college or university. I personally don’t think that they’re worth the cost.

  6. says

    Wow, this is scary. I guess the only thing in a system like this is to become super-smart and be eligible for scholarships?
    Good thing I am European, I would go crazy if I was facing this.

  7. says

    Wow, this is horribly scary. My tuition wasn’t this expensive (OK, compared to our wages it was), but I paid ‘on the go’, meaning I had a full time job. It cost me around 5 salaries/year. Pretty difficult, but doable.

  8. says

    Those are sobering numbers. I have two in college right now and a third will be starting soon. We saved plenty, but not nearly enough.

    My daughter is aiming for medical school, so the borrowing is bigger but more likely to result in a well paying job. My son is a different story, and we need to have some long talks about his school choices. I may send him the infograhpic. Thanks!

  9. Meghan says

    I have a ton of student loan debt and a high payment but thank God Bush signed that 2008 Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness Act – it’s the only thing I like him for but I will give credit where it’s due. After 120 monthly payments while working for a qualified employer, the rest of the debt is forgiven. I’ll end up making payments to cover all the original principal that I took out, plus some. However, I expect my debt to still be 6 figures because the interest has capitalized and it’s 6.875%. The first loan was taken out 13 years ago at 8.25%.

  10. says

    I still have my student loans, but they’re lower on the totem pole to be paid off since they can be deferred if my job disappears. I hope to have them paid off by next year though. We’re already saving for Daughter Person’s college, but not $900/mth – more like $50/mth right now….

  11. says

    Interesting infographic…actually very sad that student loans are such a burden on people. Sure education is important and I’m fine with paying off a reasonable amount, but when many are burdened with loans that are much higher than their incomes, then we have a problem. I agree with Matt though that the tuition increase won’t reach over $400K for a 4 yr school. The student loan/tuition bubble is bound to burst much like the housing crash a few years ago.

  12. says

    Crazy! I can’t imagine paying on student loans for more than 40 years. We had about 20k in student loans, and we were able to pay them off a couple years ago. We had to sacrifice deep, but it was totally worth it to get rid of those payments!

  13. says

    Interesting infographic! We paid off my student loans earlier this year and the feeling is awesome. I graduated with around $40,000. Sounds like a lot, but I did get 3 degrees out of it.

  14. says

    Scary stats! That’s sad how many grandparents/parents are still paying off student loans, and saving $800/month on a 529 plan is crazy… thanks for sharing!

  15. says

    I went to a for-profit school and originally borrowed $79k. After interest capitalized, I owed about $102k. Have been paying for three years (over $17k) and currently owe about $95,550. I don’t see the end of it.

  16. says

    I really, really hope something happens by 2030 because $400k is ridiculous. I graduated with a little under $20k in student loans, and my boyfriend is around the average. The comparison of paying $150/month vs $200/month was interesting. This makes me so glad that I discovered the PF community and started making extra payments on my loans.

    • says

      Yay! I’m glad you did too. We paid Greg’s off pretty quick once we got serious about them. We just paid the minimum for the first few years.

  17. says

    To me the scariest part of college tuition and student loans is so many parents and their kids walk into them without fully understanding the “true” cost. For many students they don’t fully grasp the weight of their debt until they graduate and begin paying it off and realize they are looking at years of debt repayment. Great but scary infographic!

  18. says

    It’s crazy that 30% of people are at least 30 days late on payments. It blows my mind how people don’t do math before borrowing CRAZY amount of money. Student loans seem to be attached to a lot of people who don’t have any real plans.

    • says

      I just think that some people equate a college education with success without really taking the time to run the numbers. Then, after they’ve got the degree and are saddled with debt, it’s far too late.

  19. says

    Crazy numbers. I think this points toward the need for parents (and to some degree, students) to start saving early for tuition costs. We only have so much control over the cost of education, but our ability to prepare for those costs isn’t constrained.

  20. says

    I have been reading a lot lately on this subject and I came to realise that I most certainly want to save for the future education of my children. I was lucky enough to get a scholarship so my university degree was paid for by the government (I still qualified for a student loan but only took out £3k once as I thought I needed the extra cash). I keep reading about these massive student debts that so many young professionals graduate with these days; it is truly shocking. I would never want my children to graduate with so much debt and the only way to make this happen is start saving today!

  21. says

    Interesting inforgraphic and it had some good information.

    However, I didn’t enjoy how only certain figures were used to highlight the cost of post-secondary education.

    The first part about tuition costs for the GI Generation uses only Yale as an example of what tuition cost. That would be great if it compared tuition at Yale for each successive generation. But it does not.

    Then for Generation Y, it uses Columbia university to highlight how much you would pay tuition there, because it is the most expensive school today. Then it compares Columbia’s tuition today to Yale’s tuition in 1940. That’s lazy statistics comparison in my opinion. They should be comparing average tuition from 1940 to average tuition today.

    Anyways, I thought it was pretty well done, but it could have been a bit more precise with more attention to detail on statistics measurements and comparison!

    • says

      That’s a pretty thorough analysis…but I agree! There’s no need to use info from ivy league schools to begin with since most people won’t attend them anyways.

  22. says

    I had $30,000 when I graduated in 2006 and I paid it all off in May. We currently have my husband’s loans $8,500 left and they are interest free until he graduates. We hope to pay those off in January as well.

    I was actually having a discussion with a friend of mine. I don’t think that whether or not I can afford to pay for my children’s college is the reason I choose to have one, two, three or more children. Children are obviously expensive, but according to this graphic, I doubt I will be able to pay for one child to go to college, let alone two or three. That won’t be a deterrent though. I’m curious if you plan to pay for your children’s tuition in full. I don’t think it’s feasible for the majority of the middle class… but my friend has wealthy parents so, there you go.

    • says

      No, we don’t. We save monthly for their college and occasionally put in lump sums throughout the year. Our goal is just to save as much as we can without sacrificing other savings goals like retirement or vacations. Then we’ll pay as much of their schooling as we can.

  23. says

    This is a good reason to just start drilling into the kids head now that the school name doesn’t matter, the degree does. That and community college to knock out the gen ed courses isn’t a bad idea. You can knock out the same courses at a fraction cost and then just transfer to a 4 year school to finish out the degree.

  24. says

    Wow, some pretty scary numbers there, but an interesting thing to note about paying debt and how much of a difference those extra 50 bucks per month would make.

    Fortunately, in Romania college costs are still very low and in many cases, for those with great grades and exam results, education is free. Private schools go as high as $7,000 per year, but the average I believe is around $1,000, which is less scary than the numbers you have there in the US.

  25. says

    You can just say “student loan” to me and I get riled up, lol. this is a interesting graphic!

    I have worked for organizations that encourage students to go to college immediately after high school and it’s frustrating when you see so many kids who truly aren’t ready and are only setting themselves up for future loan debt. I’m a big advocate of “gap years” so that a kid can work or intern before college to try to “figure things out” if they aren’t offered any significant scholarships to college.

    Don’t even get me started on for-profit colleges like the University of Phoenix! ugh.

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