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Every few weeks, a new report on student loans comes out and hits people with a series of astounding and but nearly unintelligible figures.

Lets put a few of the crazy numbers into context. Here are five shocking student loan figures and what they actually mean:

1. Total Debt

Student loan debt in the United States is approximately $1.2 trillion. That's about the same gross domestic product (GDP) as the entire country of Mexico. In other words, all of the goods and services produced by Mexico's people and businesses add up to the amount of student loan debt in the United States.

According to figures from the Federal Reserve of New York, student loan debt 10 years ago was just $253 billion. In the last 10 years, it's ballooned by 300 percent and in the past year alone by 10 percent. As Time points out, overall debt only grew by 43 percent in the last decade and just 1.6 percent in the past year.

2. Delinquency


There are around 20 million borrowers who have entered repayment on their student loans. More than 30 percent, or 6.2 million of them, are seriously delinquent on their payments. That's finance-speak for more than 90 days late. Just how many people are seriously late on their payments? Almost the entire population of Arizona.

3. Average Debt


The average debt for members of the class of 2012 was $29,400, according to a report from the Institute for College Access and Success. That's more than the average cost of a wedding and almost as much as the average price of a new car. Being saddled with student debt can mean driving that old junker from high school around for the forseeable future, or even postponing those nuptials.

4. Average College Cost


This isn't a student loan figure, per se, but the fact that the cost of college is rising while incomes have remained relatively stagnant means more students are turning to loans to make up the difference. The annual average cost of a college degree is around $18,500, according to the Institute of Education Sciences. That's more than the average sales associate at Walmart reportedly earns in a year. That means the cost of a degree has risen around 70 percent since the 2000-1 school year, when it was about $10,800 per year.

5. Total Borrowers


Okay, so this isn't a figure that's hard to grasp, but it's an important one to put out there. Seven out of every 10 graduating seniors crossed that stage with student debt. That's…well, that's a lot of people. At a medium size school with 10,000 students, including 2,500 seniors, about 1,750 of those seniors will graduate with student loan debt.

Is anyone doing anything to prevent these numbers from continuing their upward trend?

With midterm elections coming up and Washington already speculating about 2016 candidates and issues, a new student loan coalition called "Higher Ed, Not Debt," which launched Thursday, has vowed to bring attention to the issue and encourage voters to cast ballots for lawmakers intent on preventing these numbers from rising.


Any long-term, meaningful change in the near future when it comes to student loans is somewhat unlikely - remember the bitter partisan divide over the issue just last year?

But the fact that more organizations are banding together to bring attention to the nation's rising student debt means Congress may eventually be forced to acknowledge student loans are a problem that deserve not only consideration but bipartisan cooperation.

Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.