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Annual Reports and Information Staff (Annual Reports)
Postsecondary Education

Loans for Undergraduate Students

(Last Updated: May 2021)

In 2018–19, some 43 percent of first-time, full-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students were awarded loan aid, a 7 percentage point decrease from 2010–11 (50 percent). Between 2010–11 and 2018–19, the average annual student loan amount for these students decreased by 5 percent, from $7,700 to $7,300 (in constant 2019–20 dollars).

To help offset the cost of attending a postsecondary institution, Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 authorized several student financial assistance programs—namely, federal grants, loans, and the Federal Work-Study Program. The largest federal loan program is the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, for which the federal government is the lender. Interest on the loans provided under the Direct Loan Program may be subsidized, based on need, while the recipient is in school. Other types of student loans include institutional loans and private loans. The standard loan repayment plan is designed so that loans are payable within 10 years, beginning 6 months after the student graduates, drops below half-time enrollment, or withdraws from the academic program.

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Figure 1. Average annual undergraduate tuition and fees for full-time students at degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by level and control of institution: Academic years 2010–11 through 2019–20
Figure 1. Average annual undergraduate tuition and fees for full-time students at degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by level and control of institution: Academic years 2010–11 through 2019–20

NOTE: Data in this table represent the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Some data have been revised from previously published figures. For public institutions, in-state tuition and required fees are used. Tuition and fees are weighted by the number of full-time-equivalent undergraduates. Constant dollars are based on the Consumer Price Index, prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to an academic-year basis.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2011 through Spring 2020, Fall Enrollment component, and Fall 2009 through Fall 2019, Institutional Characteristics component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 330.10.

Figure 2. Percentage of first-time, full-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students who were awarded loan aid at degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by level and control of institution: Academic years 2010–11 through 2018–19
Figure 2. Percentage of first-time, full-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students who were awarded loan aid at degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by level and control of institution: Academic years 2010–11 through 2018–19

NOTE: Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Some data have been revised from previously published figures. Data for public 2-year institutions exclude 2011–12 and 2012–13, as indicated by the dotted line. Includes only loans made directly to students; does not include Parent PLUS Loans or other loans made directly to parents.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Winter 2011–12 through Winter 2019–20, Student Financial Aid component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 331.20; Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 331.20; Digest of Education Statistics 2018, table 331.20; and Digest of Education Statistics 2017, table 331.20.

Figure 3. Average annual loan amounts for first-time, full-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students who were awarded loan aid at degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by level and control of institution: Academic years 2010–11 through 2018–19
Figure 3. Average annual loan amounts for first-time, full-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students who were awarded loan aid at degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by level and control of institution: Academic years 2010–11 through 2018–19

NOTE: Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Some data have been revised from previously published figures. Includes only loans made directly to students; does not include Parent PLUS Loans or other loans made directly to parents. Constant dollars are based on the Consumer Price Index, prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to an academic-year basis.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Winter 2011–12 through Winter 2019–20, Student Financial Aid component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 331.20; Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 331.20; Digest of Education Statistics 2018, table 331.20; and Digest of Education Statistics 2017, table 331.20.

Figure 4. Percentage of undergraduate degree/certificate completers who ever received loans, by degree type and control of institution: Academic year 2015–16
Figure 4. Percentage of undergraduate degree/certificate completers who ever received loans, by degree type and control of institution: Academic year 2015–16

NOTE: Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Includes only loans made directly to students; does not include Parent PLUS Loans or other loans made directly to parents. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015–16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:16). See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 331.95.

Figure 5. Average cumulative loan amount for undergraduate degree/certificate completers who ever received loans, by degree type and control of institution: Academic year 2015–16
Figure 5. Average cumulative loan amount for undergraduate degree/certificate completers who ever received loans, by degree type and control of institution: Academic year 2015–16

NOTE: Degree-granting institutions grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Includes only loans made directly to students; does not include Parent PLUS Loans or other loans made directly to parents. Constant dollars are based on the Consumer Price Index, prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to an academic-year basis. Averages exclude students with no student loans.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015–16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:16). See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 331.95.


1 All dollar amounts in this indicator are expressed in constant 2019–20 dollars.

2 Includes only loans made directly to students. Does not include Parent PLUS Loans or other loans made directly to parents.

3 Loan data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) presented in figures 4 and 5 may not be comparable to data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) presented in figures 1 through 3. NPSAS incorporates data from institutional records, the National Student Loan Data System, and student-reported information, while IPEDS relies only on institutional records.

4 Parent PLUS Loans are taken out by parents of dependent students and are used toward the students’ undergraduate education. Parent PLUS Loans were available through both the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program and the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) until FFELP was discontinued in 2010. Since then, Parent PLUS Loans have been referred to as Direct PLUS Loans.

Supplemental Information

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Table 330.10 (Digest 2020): Average undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board rates charged for full-time students in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by level and control of institution: Selected years, 1963-64 through 2019-20;
Table 331.20 (Digest 2020): Full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by participation and average amount awarded in financial aid programs, and control and level of institution: 2000-01 through 2018-19;
Table 331.95 (Digest 2020): Percentage of undergraduate degree/certificate completers who ever received loans and average cumulative amount borrowed, by degree level, selected student characteristics, and institution control: Selected years, 1999-2000 through 2015-16;
Table 331.20 (Digest 2019): Full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by participation and average amount awarded in financial aid programs, and control and level of institution: 2000-01 through 2017-18;
Table 331.20 (Digest 2018): Full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by participation and average amount awarded in financial aid programs, and control and level of institution: 2000-01 through 2016-17;
Table 331.20 (Digest 2017): Full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by participation and average amount awarded in financial aid programs, and control and level of institution: 2000-01 through 2015-16
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