What is the Average Student Debt After College in 2022?

Brandi Glass
5 min read
Students in classroom

College graduates across the US now owe $1.6 trillion, a figure that rises every year with interest rates and increasingly high tuition fees.

For the average person, the idea of taking on student loan debt can make further education off-putting. In fact, US college enrollment rates have been falling since 2012, in contrast with other countries such as the UK, China and Brazil.

However, recently announced student loan relief, along with existing loan forgiveness programs, can help many US students reduce their college debt.

What is the Average Student Debt After College?

The average student debt after college now stands at $37,377. However, that figure varies significantly according to the degree and school type.

The cost of a four-year public college course is nearly $25,000, according to the Department of Education. Despite that, the average Bachelor’s degree debt is slightly higher, at $28,950.

Loan debt also rises to $71,000 for graduate school debt, $145,500 for law school debt and $292,169 for dental school debt. And, of course, more prestigious colleges often charge higher tuition.

How Has Student Debt Grown?

According to data from Experian, student loan debt in the US has grown by nearly 92% since 2009. It has vastly outpaced inflation and median household incomes. As a result, for middle-class households, student loans represent a far greater burden than in the past. Today, it is typically the second-biggest household debt after a mortgage.

What’s more, some demographics face greater challenges in paying off their student debt. According to a White House statement, “twenty years after first enrolling in school, the typical Black borrower who started college in the 1995–96 school year still owed 95% of their original student debt.”

Student Loan Debt Forgiveness Programs

In August 2022, the Biden administration announced a far-reaching student debt forgiveness program. This includes:

  • Up to $20,000 debt reduction for recipients of Pell Grants who are currently in low-income and middle-income households
  • Up to $10,000 debt reduction for borrowers who didn’t receive Pell Grants but are currently in low-income and middle-income households
  • Expanding the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program so that borrowers who have worked for non-profits, in government or in the military receive credits for loan forgiveness
  • Capping monthly repayments for new undergraduate loan debt
  • A commitment to reducing the cost of college and providing more grants

According to the White House, this will benefit as many as 43 million Americans, and especially Black Americans. 20 million people will see the remainder of their student debt completely canceled.

The Public Loan Service Forgiveness program currently reduces student loan debt for certain Americans. Borrowers need to have been employed full-time in non-profit or government roles and simultaneously repaying their debt for 10 years, after which point their loan will be forgiven. The August 2022 proposal, however, offers significantly more debt relief.

How to Reduce the Impact of Student Debt After College

While the prospect of student debt can be unpleasant, there are ways to reduce its size and impact on your future. In particular:

Consider Community College

Community college might be less prestigious than an Ivy League institution, but it is also a far more affordable way to achieve a bachelor’s degree. Even if you just attend a community college for the first two years of your degree, you can greatly reduce your student loan debt.

Work While Studying

Balancing studies and work isn’t easy, but it can help you graduate with less student debt by allowing you to take on smaller loans.

If you go down this route, make sure to plan carefully. How many years will you need to graduate? How many hours a week can you work? What will you do if you lose your job?

You might also have to make a decision between taking on well-paying work and applying for internships. While the first option could allow you to take on less debt, the second might better position you for a high-paid role after graduation.

Pursue a High-Paying Career

Some industries offer higher average college graduate salaries than others. Choosing a career is a complicated decision, and making it solely based on the potential salary can backfire. After all, you will spend the majority of your waking hours at work, so it makes sense to pick something you find rewarding. However, researching typical salaries can help you make informed decisions about college tuition and student loan debt repayments.

No matter what career you opt for, you can also improve your chances of a higher salary by negotiating better wages or conditions. Plus, make sure to read our job-seeking tips to help you get the position you’re looking for as a recent college graduate.

Take Advantage of Loan Forgiveness Programs

Non-profit or government work typically pays less than in the private sector. However, with loan forgiveness programs available, it might end up more financially viable than it seems at first glance.

Plus, with the recent announcements of loan forgiveness programs, you could find you’re eligible for more debt reduction than you had previously realized.

Do your research into the debt reduction programs available to you. Some of them require certain types of repayment plans or cap household income. By familiarizing yourself with the terms and conditions, you’ll increase your chance of qualifying for them and lowering your student debt.

Take Your First Step on the Career Ladder with an Expert Resume

Whether you’re looking for a college internship, part-time work or your first college graduate role, fine-tuning your resume will set you up for success.

Your resume is a potential employer’s first impression of you. It will get you invited to interviews and help you negotiate a higher starting salary. Investing in a well-written resume will pay off.

When writing your resume, make sure it’s customized to the role in question, professionally designed and machine-readable. You don’t want your resume to be filtered out by an applicant tracking system.

That might seem like a lot to remember, but resume writing doesn’t have to be complicated. A good template can make building your resume quick and simple. Plus, it will help you avoid common resume mistakes.

We have dozens of resume templates for college students and recent graduates that will help you get started. Our resume builder will help you pick one and adapt it to your experience and qualifications, as well as suggesting recruiter-approved skills and phrasing.

Build your resume now and start applying for roles with confidence.