Average Student Loan Debt for a Bachelor’s Degree

Report Highlights. The average debt for a 4-year Bachelor’s degree is $34,100.

  • The average 4-year Bachelor’s degree debt from a public college is $31,900.
  • 65% of students seeking a Bachelor’s degree from a public 4-year college have student loan debt.
  • The average 4-year Bachelor’s degree debt from a private for-profit college is $58,600.
  • For private non-profit colleges, the average Bachelor’s degree debt is $34,300.

Related reports include Average Student Loan Debt | Total Student Loan Debt | Student Loan Debt by Race | Average Medical School Debt | Average Law School Debt

Timeline of Average 4 year bachelor degree debt on Education Data Initiative

Public School 4-year Undergraduate Loan Debt

Students accrue less undergraduate loan debt from a public 4-year college than private schools because tuition is partially subsidized by state funding. Residents are given the cheapest tuition possible because resident taxpayer dollars go into funding state schools.  

  • The average 4-year Bachelor’s degree debt from a public college is $32,200.
  • 58% of students seeking a Bachelor’s degree from a public 4-year college have student loan debt.
  • 42% of students seeking a Bachelor’s degree from a public 4-year college have no student loan debt. 
  • 14% of Bachelor’s degree graduates who went to a public 4-year school owe over $40,000 in debt. 
  • 1 in 1,000 in-state public school Bachelor’s degree graduates will have $100,000 in student loan debt. 
  • 78% of students who graduate with a Bachelor’s degree from an in-state public school will have loan debt under $30,000. 
Average Bachelor Degree Debt at Public Colleges
Year Debt per Borrower Debt per Graduate
2004-2005 $23,600 $12,900
2009-2010 $25,800 $14,500
2014-2015 $29,200 $17,400
2019-2020 $26,700 $14,500

Private School 4-year Undergraduate Loan Debt

Students are saddled with more undergraduate loan debt from a private 4-year college because of the lack of state funding and tuition subsidization. Between private for-profit schools and private non-profit schools, Bachelor’s degree graduates typically accrue more debt at the for-profit schools. 

  • For private non-profit colleges, the average Bachelor’s degree debt is $34,300.
  • The average 4-year Bachelor’s degree debt from a private for-profit college is $50,600.
  • 20% of Bachelor’s degree graduates who went to a private non-profit 4-year school owe over $40,000 in debt.
  • Roughly 50% of Bachelor’s degree graduates who went to a private for-profit 4-year school owed over $40,000 in debt.
  • Private for-profit colleges award roughly 5% of the nation’s total annual Bachelor’s degrees.  
Average Bachelor Degree Debt at Private Nonprofit Colleges
Year Debt per Borrower Debt per Graduate
2004-2005 $30,100 $19,400
2009-2010 $32,700 $21,500
2014-2015 $34,300 $21,700
2019-2020 $33,600 $19,000

Public School vs Private School 4-year Undergraduate Loan Debt

This dataset comes from 2016 – before the 2020 pandemic suspension on student loan payments. Information about student loan debt from for-profit colleges is scarce. Only 3% of for-profit colleges release data about their student loan debt size.

  • 83% of students from private for-profit 4-year colleges have student loan debt.
  • Their student loan debt averaged $50,600.
  • 30% of students with loans from for-profit colleges defaulted on their federal student loans within 12 years.
  • 4% of students with loans from public colleges defaulted on their federal student loans within 12 years.
  • 5% of students with loans from non-profit colleges defaulted on their federal student loans within 12 years.

4 year Bachelor Degree Debt from Public and Private Non profit Colleges on Education Data Initiative

Average 4-year Bachelor’s Degree Debt by State

The majority of the states with the highest levels of debt are located in the northeast. The low-debt states are primarily concentrated in the west. In 19 states the average debt was over $30,000 – 5 of them in particular had an average of over $35,000.

  • Over the past 17 years, the student debt load has grown by twice the rate of inflation in 18 states.
  • In 5 states, inflation outpaced the student debt load.
  • New Hampshire has the highest average debt for students with a 4-year Bachelor’s degree – $39,930.
  • Utah has the lowest average debt for students with a 4-year Bachelor’s degree – $18,344.
  • At 73%, South Dakota is the state with the most amount of students in debt.
  • At 39%, Utah is the state with the least amount of students in debt.
Table of Average Bachelor’s Degree Debt per State
State Average Debt Percent of Students with Debt
Alabama $30,996 51%
Alaska $26,356 47%
Arizona $24,298 47%
Arkansas $29,319 54%
California $21,125 46%
Colorado $26,424 49%
Connecticut $35,853 57%
Delaware $39,705 60%
District of Columbia $32,966 46%
Florida $24,454 47%
Georgia $27,759 56%
Hawaii $24,926 45%
Idaho $24,983 58%
Illinois $28,552 57%
Indiana $28,521 57%
Iowa $29,560 60%
Kansas $26,002 60%
Kentucky $28,356 61%
Louisiana $26,284 53%
Maine $32,764 63%
Maryland $30,461 55%
Massachusetts $33,457 56%
Michigan $29,863 58%
Minnesota $32,012 64%
Mississippi $29,714 58%
Missouri $28,713 56%
Montana $27,114 55%
Nebraska $26,781 60%
Nevada $21,357 46%
New Hampshire $39,928 70%
New Jersey $35,117 63%
New Mexico $20,868 45%
New York $30,951 54%
North Carolina $29,681 55%
North Dakota $31,939 66%
Ohio $30,605 59%
Oklahoma $27,876 50%
Oregon $26,504 53%
Pennsylvania $39,375 64%
Rhode Island $36,791 64%
South Carolina $32,635 60%
South Dakota $32,029 73%
Tennessee $26,852 53%
Texas $26,273 52%
Utah $18,344 39%
Vermont $34,866 57%
Virginia $29,616 55%
Washington $23,993 47%
West Virginia $29,208 66%
Wisconsin $30,270 63%
Wyoming $23,510 48%

Average 4-year Bachelor’s Degree Debt by Race

In 2016, on average 22.4% of Bachelor’s degree graduates experienced difficulty repaying their student loans 1 year after graduation. The moratorium on student debt payments in 2020 aided an estimated 88% of all borrowers. The suspension also halted delinquencies and default collections on outstanding debt. The data below only includes debt from federal loans.

  • In 2016, 86% of Black borrowers averaged a student loan debt of $43,200.
  • White graduates had on average $31,200 in student loan debt from 4-year Bachelor’s degrees.
  • 66% of White graduates had student loan debt.
  • Black graduates have nearly $10,100 more debt than White graduates.
  • Black borrowers who were experiencing difficulty paying their debt averaged $42,250 in student loans.
  • 68% of Hispanic graduates have student loan debt.
  • Hispanic borrowers without difficulty paying off their Bachelor’s degree debt averaged $25,450 in loans.
  • Hispanic borrowers who experienced hardship trying to pay off their Bachelor’s degree debt averaged $34,750 in loans.
  • Hispanic graduates borrowed on average $31,900 for a 4-year Bachelor’s degree.
  • 43% of Asian graduates had student loan debt.
  • Asian graduates borrowed on average $28,200 for a 4-year Bachelor’s degree.
  • The table below is the percentage of graduates from each race experiencing difficulty with their student loan debt 1 year after graduation. 

Races Experiencing Difficulty Paying off 4 year Degree Debt on Education Data Initiative

Average 4-year Bachelor’s Degree Debt by Gender

Women tend to borrow more and have higher rates of student loan debt than men when pursuing their 4-year Bachelor’s degree. Among women, Black women assume the largest amounts of undergraduate debt.

  • 70% of female students take out student loans to pay for their 4-year undergraduate education.
  • 63% of male students take out student loans to pay for their 4-year undergraduate education.
  • Annually, 44% of women will take out loans for their undergraduate degree.
  • Annually, 39% of men will take out loans for their undergraduate degree.
  • Women take on roughly $400 more in student debt annually compared to men.
  • In 2012, 1/3rd or 34% of Black women who graduated with a Bachelor’s degree had more than $40,000 in student debt.
  • In comparison, 16% of Hispanic women had that level of debt, 10% of White women, and 8% of Asian women.

Timeline of Average Bachelor Degree Debt by Gender on Education Data Initiative

Sources

  1. Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities: What is the typical debt load for graduates of four-year public universities?
  2. The Institute for College Access & Success Report: Student Debt and the Class of 2019 – 15th Annual Report October 2000
  3. Edmit: What is the average student loan debt? (Updated for 2020)
  4. Census Bureau: Student Debt Weighed Heavily on Millions Even Before Pandemic
  5. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES): Question – What statistics do you have on student loan debt and repayment for college students?
  6. American Association of University Women: Deeper in Debt Women and Student Loans
  7. CollegeBoard: Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2020
  8. Brookings Institute: Who owes all that student debt? And who’d benefit if it were forgiven? 
  9. NCES: One Year After A Bachelor’s Degree: A Profile of 2015-2016 graduates