Press Release
New York Fed Quarterly Report Shows Student Loan Debt Continues to Grow
May 31, 2012

NEW YORK – In its latest Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York today announced that student loan debt reported on consumer credit reports reached $904 billion in the first quarter of 2012, a $30 billion increase from the previous quarter.  In addition, consumer deleveraging continued to advance as overall indebtedness declined to $11.44 trillion, about $100 billion (0.9 percent) less than in the fourth quarter of 2011.  Since the peak in household debt in the third quarter of 2008, student loan debt has increased by $293 billion, while other forms of debt fell a combined $1.53 trillion.

The New York Fed also released historical student loans figures, by quarter, dating back to the first quarter of 20031 as part of this quarter’s report.  These data show that student loan debt has substantially increased since 2003, growing $663 billion.  Outstanding student loan debt surpassed credit card debt as the second highest form of consumer debt in the second quarter of 2010. 

“Student loan debt continues to grow even as consumers reduce mortgage debt and credit card balances,” said Donghoon Lee, senior economist at the New York Fed.  “It remains the only form of consumer debt to substantially increase since the peak of household debt in late 2008.” 

Additionally, 90+ day delinquency rates for student loans steadily increased from 6.13 percent in the first quarter of 2003 to its current level of 8.69 percent.  They remain higher than that of mortgages, auto loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOC).2  90+ day student loan delinquencies were at their peak during the third quarter of 2010 at 9.17 percent and are the only form of those delinquencies to increase this quarter (by 0.24 percent).  
The New York Fed’s latest Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit also includes data on mortgages, credit cards, auto loans and delinquencies.   

Other highlights from the report include:

  • Mortgage balances shown on consumer credit reports fell again ($81 billion or 1.0 percent) during the quarter. 
  • Mortgage originations, which we measure as appearances of new mortgages on consumer credit reports, rose to $412 billion and are 17.4 percent below their first quarter 2011 level. 
  • Credit card balances, at $679 billion, were 21.6 percent below their fourth quarter 2008 peak of $866 billion. 
  • The number of credit inquiries within six months–an indicator of consumer credit demand–declined slightly, 0.5 percent, and is now 15.5 percent above its first quarter 2010 trough. 
  • Auto loan originations rose 2.1 percent in the quarter, to $72 billion, and are 43.6 percent above their trough level in quarter one of 2009. 
  • About $1.06 trillion of consumer debt is currently delinquent, with $796 billion seriously delinquent (at least 90 days late or “severely derogatory”). 

About the New York Fed’s Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit
The New York Fed’s Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit provides unique data and insight into the credit conditions and activity of U.S. consumers. The report, which is updated quarterly, includes information on various aspects of consumer debt, including bankruptcies, per capita debt levels, total debt levels and composition of debt, new originations of installment loans, total balance by delinquency status, foreclosures and new delinquencies by loan type for the U.S. and select states.  The report is aimed at helping community groups, small businesses, state and local government agencies and the public to better understand, monitor and respond to trends in borrowing and indebtedness at the household level.  The report is based on data from the New York Fed’s Consumer Credit Panel, which represents a nationally representative random sample drawn from Equifax credit report data.  Sections of the report are presented as interactive graphs on the New York Fed’s Household Credit web page and the full report is available for download. 

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1As of the Q1 2012 report, the Quarterly Report will provide data and charts over a ten year period. Note that reported aggregates, especially in 2003-2004, may reflect some delays in the reporting of student loans by servicers to credit bureaus which could lead to  some undercounting of student loan balances.   Quarterly data prior to Q1 2003, excluding student loans, will remain available on the Household Credit webpage.      

2 As explained in a recent blog post, these delinquency rates for student loans are likely to understate actual delinquency rates because almost half of these loans are currently in deferment or in grace periods and therefore temporarily not in the repayment cycle. This implies that among loans in the repayment cycle delinquency rates are roughly twice as high.

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