What college grads could buy without student loan debt

Written by:
August 27, 2018
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What college grads could buy without student loan debt

America's student debt landscape consists of a ghastly set of numbers that would be hard to believe if 44 million borrowers didn't receive bills every month. Tens of millions of Americans took on an average debt of $39,400 each to access higher education. The average monthly payment among these individuals is $351, for a combined debt of about $1.48 trillion.

The things those borrowers or the country as a whole could buy if those debts were erased are stunning. America's combined student loan debt, after all, is greater than the purchasing power of all but 22 of the world's highest-GDP countries. The hundreds of dollars borrowers spend every month to satisfy their debts, the tens of thousands they owe individually and the nearly trillion-and-a-half dollars they owe as a group can buy a staggering number of homes, cars, planes and even entire annual budgets.

Here's a shopping list of things that could be bought if America’s student loan debt vanished.

ALSO: States spending the most and least on student education



More than 5.3 million typical American homes

As of July 2018, the median listing price across all homes in the U.S. hit $278,900. The $1.48 trillion owed by student debt borrowers is equivalent to just over 5.3 million homes at that sales price. According to the National Association of Realtors, 83% of student loan borrowers aged 22 to 35 who do not own a home blame their student debt for their inability to buy.

A luxury crossover

The 2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport has a fair market price of $39,671. With average student loans reaching $39,400, all 44 million U.S. borrowers could instead purchase a luxury SUV at a comparable debt burden. Total U.S. auto sales reached 17.25 million in 2017.

5,920 F-22s

America's most expensive fighter jet is the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. At a cost of $250 million each, America's combined $1.48 trillion student loan debt is comparable to 5,920 of these advanced military aircraft.

The combined budgets for Medicare and Medicaid

America's biggest federal budget item is the combined budgets for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services programs, responsible for facilitating health insurance across the country, with a budget reaching $1.06 trillion in 2017. America's $1.48 trillion in student loan debt far exceeds both programs, with nearly $400 billion leftover.  

A tiny house

Eco-friendly Nomad tiny homes start at $39,000. If the average student borrower could allocate from education loans to micro home financing, they could icozy up in 200 square feet of living space with $400 left over to decorate. 

An island in Nova Scotia

The undeveloped, 1.4-acre Hemlow Island in Nova Scotia can be yours for $21,944.76—forest and all. If they could wipe their debt clean, the average student borrower could instead finance their own private paradise with $17,455.24 left over to build a cabin.

A home recording studio

The Recording Revolution maps out a plan to build your own home recording studio for just $350. For the cost of satisfying a single average month of student loan debt, the borrower could finance a recording studio high-quality enough to launch a music career.

21 shares of Amazon stock

Amazon stock hit crossed the $2,000 mark for the first time ever on August 30, reaching a high of $2,025.57 per share. You could buy nearly 20 shares with financing equivalent to the $39,400 that the average borrower owes in student loan debt.

South Korea's entire GDP

South Korea's nominal gross domestic product hit $1.53 trillion in 2017, making it the 11th-largest economy in the world. America's combined $1.48 trillion in student loan debt measures just less than the total economic activity of this southeast Asia country.

An iPhone X for everyone in China and the UK

You can pick up a brand new iPhone X for $999. The number of iPhones you could buy with America's combined $1.48 trillion in student debt translates to 1.48 billion. With a projected 1.415 billion people living in China, that's enough to buy everyone an iPhone and still have around 65 million to spare for the population of the United Kingdom. 

8.7 million hours of stealth flight

It costs about $169,313 to fly a B-2 stealth bomber for an hour. If you spent the entire country's cumulative $1.48 trillion student loan debt, it would come out to 8.7 million hours of flight time, or nearly 1,000 years.

389 Freedom Towers

The Freedom Tower, which rose up in the space where the World Trade Center once stood, cost about $3.8 billion to build. You could finance the skyscraper 389 times with the sum of America's $1.48 trillion outstanding student loan debt.

Apple nearly 1.5 times over

In the summer of 2018, Apple made history when it became the first company ever to hit a market cap of $1 trillion. America holds enough student loan debt to match that number, and still have $480 billion left to spend on iTunes downloads.

Six years of underwear for Floyd Mayweather

Retired champion boxer and legendary spendthrift Floyd "Money" Mayweather spends $6,500 a year on boxer shorts (the underwear, not the actual shorts boxers wear when they fight). That's because he only wears each pair once before throwing them away. With the average student debt of $39,400, you could keep Floyd covered for a little more than six years.

A house in Detroit

The median list price for a home in Detroit is $36,000. If average borrowers had no debt, they could buy a home in the Motor City and still have $3,400 left over to spend on landscaping and curb appeal.

515 Hubble telescopes

The world's most famous telescope cost $1.5 billion to build in 1990, which is about $2.87 billion adjusted for inflation. If you were willing to plunk down America's entire $1.48 trillion student loan debt, you’d be able see an amazing chunk of the universe, with 515 in-orbit telescopes (and enough left over for repairs). 

11 Tata Motors Nano cars

Although they entered the market in 2008 with a $1,500 price tag, today's Nanos cost about $3,435. When Tata Motors first unveiled the Nano, the Indian automaker touted it as the world's cheapest car (though they've been revealed to be notoriously unreliable). With the average $39,400 student loan debt, however, you could still score 11 of them. 

Five French bulldogs

One of the most expensive dog breeds in the world, a high-end bred French bulldog will run you about $7,650. The average student debt of $39,400 is enough to pick up five of these cute pups (plus pet insurance). 

Six Savannah cats

With an average price tag of $6,600, the Savannah is one of the world's most expensive cats. For $39,400, you can get yourself six of them. 

20,845 Pink Star diamonds

In 2017, the legendary Pink Star diamond sold for $71 million. America's combined $1.48 trillion student loan debt would be equivalent to 20,845 of these massive rosy gems.

An hour with a transit safety consultant

In 2016, New Jersey Transit was struggling to meet federal safety standards, so the agency hired a safety consultant for $350 an hour. With what it costs the average borrower to pay down loans for just one month, the state of New Jersey could have bought an hour of advice with an expert consultant. 

Two "Star Wars" Jawa figures

With an asking price of $18,000, an original 1977 Jawa still in the packaging is probably the most valuable "Star Wars" toy on the planet. For the price of the average borrower's $39,400 debt, you could buy two of them and still have $3,400 to spend on a C-3PO 1999 Lego Minifigure Prototype costing $3,200.

Over 18,200 seats on a Russian spacecraft

NASA pays Russia about $81 million per seat for its astronauts to ride into space on the country's cosmic vessels. With a payment equal to the $1.48 trillion student loan bill, America could score 18,271 seats.

One legendary Frank Wilson Record

There are only two known recordings of the Frank Wilson 45 "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)" in existence. They cost about $37,000 each, which means you could own one if not for that pesky student debt. 


Seven Wagyu truffle burgers

When Chef Hubert Keller unveiled the truffle-infused Wagyu beef Fleur Burger, the asking price was an outrageous $5,000 (yes, it comes with fries). The average borrower's $39,400 student loan debt is enough to buy seven of them, with $4,400 left over for two bottles of $2,000 1995 vintage Chateau Petrus. After all that, you're still up $400, more than enough to cover your next meal: the $295 Le Burger Extravagant at Serendipity 3 in New York City.

Your own stretch of Costa Rican jungle

You can score a lot in the pristine Samara rainforest of Costa Rica for $39,000. Your lot will span 5,000 square meters, which you can use to set up your house and start your own tropical farm. The average student loan debt of $39,400 will cover the whole thing.

An Aston Martin bicycle

The One-77 model bike produced by Aston Martin retails for $39,000. You could cover that with the bill owed by the average student borrower and still have $400 left over, which you could use to buy a really nice normal bike.

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