Average Graduate Student Loan Debt

Highlights. The average graduate student loan debt balance is $91,148 among federal borrowers.

  • The average undergraduate student loan debt balance is $36,635.
  • The average debt among master’s degree holders is $71,287.
  • The average debt among PhD holders is $159,625.
  • 14.3% of the average graduate student debt is from the borrower’s undergraduate study.
  • The average graduate student debt is 141.8% higher than the average debt balance among all student borrowers.

Related reports include Average Student Loan Debt | Average Law School Debt | Average Medical School Debt | Student Loan Debt Statistics | Student Loan Refinancing

Line Graph: Average Balance on Federal Grad PLUS Loans

Average Graduate Student Debt

Many borrowers who carry a graduate student loan debt balance also have debt from undergraduate studies; debt from graduate school alone averages $78,118.

  • Each outstanding Direct PLUS loan or Grad PLUS loan debt carries a balance of $55,200.
  • $634 billion was the total federal graduate debt in 2017 according to the Congressional Budget Office.
  • $73,244 is the average student loan debt among postbaccalaureate certificate holders; $59,531 is from graduate school only.
  • $55,178 is the average student loan debt among those who received their postbaccalaureate certificate from a public institution; $47,623 is just from graduate school.
  • $88,058 is the average debt among those who earned their postbaccalaureate certificate from private, nonprofit institutions; $72,296 is from graduate school.
  • $105,115 is the average debt among those who attended private, for-profit institutions; $67,474 is from graduate school.

Today’s graduate students are 3 times more likely to borrow for school than graduate students in 1995.

  • Graduate students borrow 37% of federal student loan dollars.
  • 46.7% of federal student loan debt belongs to graduate student borrowers.
  • $7.55 billion or 11.54% of all private student loan debt belongs to graduate student borrowers.
  • 1.7% of the private debt balance is between 30 and 89 days delinquent.
  • 0.9% of private graduate student debt is in default.

Line Graph: Average Student Loan Debt Among Graduate Degree Holders

Average Master’s Student Debt

Most master’s degree holders carry a cumulative student loan debt balance over $70,000. For graduate school alone, the average debt among master’s degree holders exceeds $55,000.

  • $71,287 is the average student loan debt balance among master’s degree holders; $55,351 is from graduate school only.
  • $58,859 is the average student loan debt among master’s degree holders who attended public institutions; $46,593 is just from graduate school.
  • $77,700 is the average debt among those who earned master’s degrees at private, nonprofit institutions; $62,029 is from graduate school.
  • $97,612 is the average debt among master’s degree holders who attended private, for-profit institutions; $68,249 is from graduate school.
  • Since 2000, the average debt among master’s degree holders has increased 74.0%.
  • 60% of master’s degree holders owe student loan debt.
  • Among master’s degree holders who attended public institutions, 57% owe student loan debt.
  • 60% of those who earned master’s degrees at private, nonprofit institutions owe student loan debt.
  • 71% of master’s degree holders who attended private, for-profit institutions owe student loan debt.

Grouped Bar Graph: Average Cumulative Graduate Student Loan Debt Among Master's Degree Holders

Doctoral and Professional Debt

Doctorate holders naturally have a higher average graduate student loan debt, and professional doctorate holders carry almost twice as much debt compared to research doctorate or PhD holders.

  • $117,146 is the average PhD holder’s total student loan debt; $111,702 is from graduate school alone.
  • $99,620 is the average debt among PhD holders who attended public institutions; $93,350 is from just graduate school.
  • $99,860 is the average student loan debt among PhD holders who attended public institutions; $93,578 is from graduate school.
  • $101,918 is the average debt among those who earned PhDs at private, nonprofit institutions; $98,669 is from graduate school.
  • $173,401 is the average debt among those who earned PhDs at private, for-profit institutions; $159,863 is from graduate school.
  • $202,103 is the average debt among professional doctorate holders; $189,322 is from graduate school.
  • $154,447 is the average debt among those who earned professional doctorates at public institutions; $144,266 is from graduate school.
  • $240,227 is the average debt among those who earned professional doctorates at private, nonprofit institutions; $226,147 is from graduate school.
  • $206,002 is the average debt among those who earned professional doctorates at private, for-profit institutions; $184,665 is from graduate school.
  • Among PhD holders who attended public institutions, 37% have student loan debt.
  • 54% of those who earned PhDs at private, nonprofit institutions owe student loan debt.
  • 76% of those who earned PhDs at private, for-profit institutions owe student loan debt.
  • Among professional doctorate holders who attended public institutions, 76% owe student loan debt.
  • 72% of those who earned professional doctorates at private, nonprofit institutions owe student loan debt.
  • 90% of those who earned professional doctorates at private, for-profit institutions owe student loan debt.
  • $107,008 is the average student loan debt among PhD holders.
  • 48% of PhD holders owe student loan debt.
  • 75% of professional doctorate holders owe student loan debt.
  • 81% of medical doctorate holders have student loan debt.
  • 75% of other health science professional practice doctorate holders have student loan debt.

Grouped Bar Graphs: Average Graduate Student Loan Debt Among Doctorates

Graduate Debt by Discipline

Medical and health science degree holders are most likely to have high amounts of graduate student loan debt. Regardless of degree discipline, graduate student debt is consistently higher than undergraduate debt.

  • $71,633 is the average debt for a Master of Business Administration (MBA); $55,198 is from graduate school.
  • 51% of MBA holders have student loan debt.
  • $59,633 is the average debt for a Master of Education; $45,961 is from graduate school.
  • 62% of Master of Education holders have student loan debt.
  • $78,658 is the average debt for a Master of Arts (MA); $58,247 is from graduate school.
  • 59% of MA holders have student loan debt.
  • $67,362 is the average debt for a Master of Science (MS); $52,782 is from graduate school.
  • 56% of MS holders have student loan debt.
  • $107,008 is the average debt among Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) holders; $106,683 is from graduate school.
  • $121,197 is the average debt among those who hold any doctorate in education; $112,207 is from graduate school.
  • $232,396 is the average debt among those with doctorates in health science professional practices; $222,519 is just from graduate school.
  • $151,804 is the average debt among those who hold other doctorates (not PhDs); $135,060 is from graduate school.
  • 74.1% of law school students graduate in debt.
  • 76-89% of medical school students graduate with educational debt.
  • 43% of indebted medical school graduates have premedical educational debt.

For more detailed information, see related reports Average Law School Debt and Average Medical School Debt.

Sources

  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index Inflation Calculator
  2. National Center of Education Statistics (NCES), Digest of Education Statistics: Table 332.45
  3. NCES, Trends in Student Loan Debt for Graduate School Completers
  4. The Measure One Private Student Loan Report