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U.S. college and university graduates are swamped with debt – and the situation shows little sign of improving. Here are six charts that illustrate the country’s mounting student debt pile.

Surging debt

Total student loan debt in the United States has multiplied over the past decade. It currently sits at $1.26-trillion (U.S.), or about $1-trillion greater than a dozen years ago, according to figures from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Student loans are the largest source of non-housing debt for American households.

Versus mortgages

Though mortgages account for the bulk of money owed by U.S. households, student loan debt is growing at a significantly faster rate.


More than 11 per cent of student loan debt is considered “seriously delinquent,” or at least 90 days late for payment. That’s a higher percentage than any other loan type.

By student

In the Class of 2016, 71.5 per cent of bachelor’s degree recipients graduated with a student loan, owing an average of $37,173, according to projections from Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of, an online resource. That’s up from 65.9 per cent and $20,790 a decade earlier.

School costs

Here’s one obvious reason for mounting debt levels: tuition and other fees. Attending a postsecondary institution in the United States is becoming costlier by the year, and the growth rate of school fees well exceeds inflation.

Canada versus U.S.

Canadian students in domestic undergraduate programs paid an average of $5,998 (Canadian) in tuition fees for the 2014-2015 school year, according to Statistics Canada, or roughly $4,600 in U.S. dollars. Stateside universities tend to be more expensive, often substantially so.

Notes: Average U.S. undergraduate costs per year include tuition, related fees, and room and board for full-time students in degree-granting, four-year postsecondary institutions. Unless otherwise noted, years correspond to the end of the school year (2015 is 2014-15 school year).