America’s Student Loan Debt is $1.3 Trillion: How Much is That Exactly? (INFOGRAPHIC)

Student loan debt in America is now around $1.3 trillion.

Flickr user Mack Male

Many college-bound students turn to student loans as a way to pay for college, and while loans can certainly be helpful in that respect, they must first be understood. In 2016 the average college student graduated with about $37,000 in student loan debt. Collectively, Americans have about $1.26 trillion in student loan debt, across several graduated classes. $1.3 trillion. Woah.

But how much is $1.3 trillion? It’s a tough number to wrap your head around, to be sure, so we’ve come up with this nifty infographic to help break it down a little. And don’t worry, there will be some good news afterward.

How much is $1.3 trillion in student loan debt? infographic

Ok, so now that we have a better understanding of just how much $1.3 trillion is, how do we lower that crazy amount? By educating ourselves on paying for college through financial aid and student loans.

Financial Aid

The best way to pay for college is when you don’t have to repay the money you’re given, right? Organizations award scholarships and grants, essentially gifts of “free money”, for all sorts of reasons—academic prowess, interest in a certain major, participation in a sport or activity, volunteer work, being of a certain religion or ethnicity, the list goes on and on and on.


Even fun contests exist that award money for college tuition, room and board, books, and living expenses!

The biggest source of financial aid? The federal government and the schools themselves through college scholarships! Most college students receive some sort of financial aid that will help them pay for college and thus reduce the number of loans they have to take out.

Don’t think you’re eligible to receive aid? Think again! By filing the FAFSA (which everyone should do)—the Free Application for Federal Student Aid—students can be evaluated for their financial need. The FAFSA and CSS connects students to federal financial aid opportunities that can greatly help them reduce out-of-pocket college costs or student loan amounts. Other forms of aid—like private scholarships, for example—often require the student to have filed the FAFSA too. So go and fill it out! It’s free and only costs you a little bit of time, but the payoff can be so worth it.

There’s something else we should talk about when it comes to financial aid, and that’s net price. The sticker price of a college is the published “cost of attendance” they provide. The price can sometimes be more than a little off-putting. Stanford’s sticker price is nearly $65,000. But that’s not the number you want to pay attention to while comparing colleges and their prices—you want to look at the net price.

The net price of a college is what you’ll actually pay to attend. Net price factors in financial aid packages awarded by the school, scholarships the student is likely to earn, and grants available when calculating the net price estimate for a specific student. So $65,000 might be Stanford’s price-tag, but a student may only actually pay $22,000 to attend! A much more manageable fee.

College Raptor is an excellent source to discover your net price estimates for nearly every single college in the US! Simply enter your information into our free tool once, to discover the savings and compare college costs! It’s a snap, and it’s completely free!

Student Loans

There are two major categories of student loans: a federal and private student loan. Federal loans are offered by the government and give students more options in terms of repayment and even forgiveness. Private loans, however, are generally more stringent on their rules.

Students must fully understand what a loan is, how it affects their finances, and research plenty of different options before settling on one, else they may wind up with debt. Luckily there are plenty of resources out there, College Raptor included! Read up on some of our student loan articles to keep yourself informed!

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Despite it all…

$37,000 is a scary number, but it doesn’t have to be yours. By researching all your available financial aid options (and they are plentiful, indeed, if you know where to look) you can greatly reduce or even eliminate that number. Don’t be intimidated by the stats so much that you shy away from college entirely or think there’s no hope—because there is!

Remember: look at the net price, file your FAFSA, research financial aid opportunities, apply for scholarships with College Raptor, look at the fine print for loans, and you’ll be just fine.

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