Home / Credit News / Student loans a drag on borrowers' credit scores?

Millions of consumers have sizable outstanding student loan debts, and new data shows that this could be taking a big chunk out of their overall credit ratings.

Student loan debt has exploded in the last several years, growing 54 percent to $26,549 this year, from the average $17,236 observed in 2005, according to a new report from the credit scoring firm FICO. Further, assuming there are about 200 million people with credit ratings nationwide, the number of borrowers who have student loan debts of $100,000 or more has more than tripled to 1 million in that time.

Meanwhile, the number of people with slightly more bearable student loan balances of $50,000 or more still accounts for about 7 percent of the total population, and those borrowers may have had those balances negatively impact their credit ratings. Compared with the total population, the top two tiers of consumer credit ratings, those between 750 and 799, and 800 and 850, have far fewer borrowers with balances of more than $50,000.

For instance, that top level may have more than 18 percent of the total population, but only slightly more than 7 percent of those with large outstanding student debts fall into this category, the report said. The same is true for the second tier, which has about 14 percent of student loan borrowers, but 19 percent of all consumers.

Meanwhile, the inverse is true of lower credit ratings ranges, the report said. For all 50-point tiers between 500 and 699, the proportion of borrowers with sizable outstanding education debt is larger than that of the general population.

Education financing could make it difficult for borrowers to have financial flexibility soon after graduating, especially as the average recent graduate also has credit card and auto financing bills to pay.