More than six in ten (62%) college seniors who graduated from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2019 had student loan debt and they owed an average of $28,950. This is a lower share of students than the Class of 2018 (65%), and a very slight decline (less than 1%) in total debt from the 2018 average of $29,200.
The slowing and recent pause in student debt growth for college graduates is encouraging news. Increases in state spending and grant aid are both likely contributing factors, as well as broader economic improvements in the years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the public health crisis has already reshaped the higher education landscape in important ways and placed profound financial pressures on states, colleges, and students that could already be making college less affordable and increase reliance on student debt.