Student Loan Debt Hits Record Levels but Delinquency Rates Have Declined, Study Finds

While U.S. student loan debt has more than doubled in the past decade hitting a record high of $1.36 trillion in the third quarter of 2018, delinquency rates have been declining according to new data.

In New Jersey, students carry a debt load of $42.5 billion.

A study by the consumer credit reporting agency Experian looked at both the actual student loan debt and the rate it has increased over the past decade, ending in the third quarter of 2018.

Nationwide, student loan debt has increased 129% since 2008 and represents the second-largest consumer debt for Americans, trailing only mortgage loans. There are more than 145 million outstanding student loan accounts spread across 43.2 million borrowers nationally.

On average, Americans carry $22,600 per person in student loan debt, a 20% increase since 2015, according to the study.

Not surprisingly, the most populous states are carrying the most debt: California with $132 billion, Texas with $103 billion and Florida with $89 billion.

For New Jersey, debt increased 128% in the past ten years, up from $18.8 billion in 2008.

Though student loan debt has reached record levels, borrowers are for the most part making their payments on time. Only about $77 billion in loans -- nearly 5.7% of them -- were delinquent in the third quarter of 2018, and of those, the majority were 90 or more days past due, Experian said.

Since 2015, the number of delinquent loans shrank by 4%, and delinquency rates decreased by 50% on loans that were 30 to 59 days past due. For loans that were 60 to 90 days past due, delinquency rates shrank by 48%.

In fact, Experian said, the only loans that didn't show dramatic change were those that were 90 days past due, which went down by just 2%.

Delinquency rates increased in only two regions since 2015 -- the South-Atlantic and the South-Central -- where 9.6% and 9.4% of accounts were at least 30 days past due, respectively.

Experian said low unemployment rates may be boosting Americans' ability to make good on their student loan payments.