Top 10 Countries That Have the Highest Student Loan Debt

The top 10 countries that have the highest student loan debt are mostly foreign universities where the number of learners who participate in the program for the sake of survival is sky-blowing. This fair socioeconomic phenomenon is borne out of the people’s desire for education which implies that there will be a massive influence on the low rate of illiteracy in these countries.

From $51.8 billion to a whopping $152.8 billion, the figure keeps rising to a seemingly uncontrollable one across the world. This is the record of the amount of student loan debt that is currently being endured. Although the United States of America is notorious for this deafening financial outstanding, it is definitely not the only place in the world where students have to take on loans to go to college.

Examining student debt by country can be very instructive, as some places are very creative when it comes to tuition and how they address paying back student loans.

Even at this, the odds are still there, meaning there’s nothing like loan in countries. For instance, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Scotland and Sweden are among the places that don’t charge college tuition, though that often depends on whether you’re a resident or an international student.

But that doesn’t mean student loans are obsolete there: Germans, for example, make debt available for students attending private universities. Swedes, meanwhile, still take out education debt for off-campus expenses. Still, lower costs generally equate to lower rates of borrowing.

  • Countries that Delay Repayment until the Borrower Earns Enough Income

In many countries, students who leave school with debt don’t begin repaying that debt until they earn sufficient income. And even then, the borrower’s monthly dues are capped as a percentage of their earnings.

Consider the following countries, where borrowers only submit payments if they’ve earned a minimum income:

CountryMinimum annual income (U.S. dollars)Maximum paymentPayment methodForgiveness of remaining balance
Australia$32,638 (for 2021-22) and $33,565 (for 2022-23)1% to 10% of incomeTax deductionNone
Canada$19,317 (for a single person)20% of incomeManualAfter 15 years
England$24,3679% of incomePayroll deductionAfter 25 to 30 years

Even in places where there’s an actual cost of attendance, like Italy and France, fees are relatively low, lessening the need for taking on debt.

  • 10 Countries with the Highest Debt Record

However, other countries do give loan and many students in these parts of the world are grateful for it. Here are particularly the top 10 countries that have the highest student loan debt:


In 2018, a total of 44.2 Million borrowers owed a total of over $1.5 Trillion in student debt. In addition to more borrowers, and the total amount owed having more than doubled (up 250%) from $600 Billion to $1.5 Trillion in 10 years, according to Forbes Magazine, the rate of delinquency greater than 90 days, or default, has doubled to over 11% nationwide.

In November 2022, federal judge William Alsup ruled for immediate relief for about 200,000 student debtors and in April 2023 US Supreme Justice Elena Kagan declined to grant emergency relief to three for-profit colleges.

Many factors are accountable for student debt. One factor is the decline of the income premium for graduates compared to non-graduates. Another factor is amount of interest on the loans. Yet another factor is the new guidelines developed by the federal government.

There are now new rules deciding who can borrow, as well as how much debt they can take on. Several scholars attribute the student debt crisis to the influence of neoliberal policies and practices, which have bolstered tuition cost while simultaneously reducing state funding for higher education.


Followed closely by the United States, the United Kingdom has some of the highest rates of student debt. The growth of these student debt rates over the last 50 years have largely been attributed to the governments desire to increase student participation in higher education.

Read Also: 5 Professional Degrees That Hold the Most Debt

Now, the UK has adopted a plan based on “Income Contingent Loans” to allow students to pay back loans at a rate proportional to their level of income post-graduation. There is concern about the level of student debt in the United Kingdom. There is also concern about possible changes in government policy forcing graduates to pay back more.


As of 2018, Canada ranked third in the world (behind Russia and South Korea) for the percentage of people in the age group of 25-34 who have completed tertiary education. But Canadians are not prone to the rapid accumulation of student loans.

As of September 2012, the average debt for a Canadian leaving university was 28,000 Canadian dollars, and that accumulated debt takes an average of 14 years to fully repay based on an average starting salary of $39,523. To temporarily help their low income struggling citizens with student debt, Canada has a program called “interest relief”. It grants 6 months free of mandatory payments, for a maximum of 30 months. The Canadian government pays for the interest on those loans during the grace period, so the loan amount is the same at the end of the grace period.

Also, students are relieved of their debt after 15 years. As a nation, Canadians have accumulated more than $15 billion in 2010, then $18.2 billion in 2017 (both for only government-backed loans), however in 2018 the total student debt (for both government and private sponsored loans) was $28 billion.


The only expense students take out loans for in public universities is the living cost which ranges from €3600 to €8,200 a year depending on the university location. Germany has both private and public universities with the majority being public universities, which is part of the reason their graduates do not have as much debt. For undergraduate studies, public universities are free but have an enrollment fee of no more than €250 per year which is roughly US$305.

Other Countries are:

  • Australia

  • Norway

  • Hungary

  • Finland

  • The Netherlands

  • Denmark

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