Today, roughly 70 percent of American bachelor’s graduates leave school with debt, and for those that do, the median balance is $26,500. While career earnings tend to grow rapidly, student loans are typically repaid in the first decade of the career when earnings are at their lowest. For the graduate with typical debt level and earnings, payments under the standard 10-year repayment plan take up 14.1% of earnings in the first year, but gradually fall to only 6.5% of earnings in the tenth and final year. This repayment strategy, however, can place a particularly heavy burden on graduates from majors whose earnings start low before rising later in the career. For these students, college may not provide the cash flow needed to easily pay off loans in years immediately following graduation.
Using major-specific earnings data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, we have created a student loan repayment calculator that shows the share of earnings necessary to service traditional loan repayment for 80 majors. You can choose or search from each of these majors, as well as change the size and features of the student loan using the selection boxes above. You can even compare repayment from one major with that of another. By default, loan features reflect the experience of a typical graduate borrower, and earnings include part-time workers and those who experience unemployment throughout the year (but exclude those with graduate degrees, as these individuals often accumulate additional debt).