Number of Borrowers, Amount Borrowed, and Repayment Rates Contribute to Record-High Student Debt

December 1, 2020

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Title: The Volume and Repayment of Federal Student Loans: 1995 to 2017

Authors: David Burk and Jeffrey Perry

Source: Congressional Budget Office

The Congressional Budget Office examined factors contributing to the seven-fold increase in federal student loan debt that took place between 1995 and 2017. The authors report that the high volume of student loans can be attributed to increases in the number of borrowers and the average amount borrowed, as well as the slowed rate at which loans were repaid.

According to the report, in 2017, $96 billion in new federal student loans were disbursed to 8.6 million students. By contrast, in 1995, $36 billion (in 2017 dollars) were disbursed to 4.1 million students. The authors also note that the average cost of tuition increased substantially between 1995 and 2017, with much of the overall increase in borrowing disproportionately stemming from loans for for-profit college attendance. The report also details how changes to borrowing limits, interest rates, and repayment plans contribute to overall trends in borrowing and repayment.

Click here to read the report.

—Anna Marie Ramos

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