COLLEGE-BOUND GRADS COULD EXIT WITH $38K STUDENT LOAN DEBT By Erin El Issa A 2021 high school graduate who will depend on student loans to pay for college could expect to borrow $38,147 for their bachelor’s degree, according to a new NerdWallet analysis. Around 45% of 2021 high school grads may enroll in four-year colleges, based on prior years’ enrollment data. NerdWallet’s analysis of the most recent data available from the National Center for Education Statistics, or NCES, shows that: • 45% of these enrollees would take on student loan debt. • It will take them about five years, on average, to get a bachelor’s degree. • Assuming they relied on loans to pay for each of the five years, borrowers could face a post-graduation debt load of more than $38,000.
For this analysis, we limited our scope to four-year public colleges and universities. Private institutions tend to be costlier and may have a higher number of borrowers than public institutions.
Projected annual student borrowing Average annual loan growth per student slowed around 2010, and we used that slower annual growth to calculate potential student loan debt loads for 2021 high school graduates. Assuming five years in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree, we estimate that a student relying on student loans will graduate with $38,147 in debt.
Source: NerdWallet analysis of data from the NCES, including average student loan amounts in constant dollars for four-year public institutions. Data from 2000-01 through 2018-19 were provided; data for 2020-2026 is NerdWallet projections. For 2000 through 2014, the NCES only provided data for academic years 2000-01, 2005-06, 2010-11 and 2013-14.
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