This study documents the student loan debt of recent college graduates as a percent of their post-graduation annual earnings.

Key points

  • New data from the U.S. Department of Education reveal the annual student loan debt and earnings of recent college graduates.
  • We develop a metric called Debt as a Percent of Earnings (DPE) to help students, parents, and policymakers make more informed decisions.
  • DPE is calculated as student loan debt at graduation divided by annual earnings three years after graduation.
  • A DPE value above 100% indicates excessive debt because graduates will be unlikely to be able to repay their student loans.
  • The DPE values are reported by credential and academic field.