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States with the Most and Least Student Debt

By: Adam McCann - WalletHub.com

 

“Location, location, location” is the most important phrase in real estate. But the mantra applies to education, too. Where you live doesn’t just affect the value of your property; it also reflects the worth of your college degree — the same degree that may have put you in debt. With 10.7 percent of all student-loan debts 90+ days delinquent or in default as of Q1 2018, graduates need to be selective with the places in which they choose to put their degrees to work. New York City, for instance, might have a high average salary for a certain profession, but the high cost of living could outweigh the gains.

Save for mortgages, student loans make up the largest component of household debt for Americans. And our collective debt keeps growing. At the end of the first quarter of 2018, total outstanding college-loan balances disclosed on credit reports stood at $1.41 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

There is evidence that income potential rises and chances of joblessness decline with more schooling. But many graduates entering the labor market are learning the hard way that a college degree can’t guarantee financial security. Post-college success depends on numerous factors, including where a graduate lays down roots. Student-loan borrowers generally fare better in strong-economy states with low college-debt-to-income ratios.

With student-loan debtors in mind, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on 11 key measures of indebtedness and earning opportunities. Our data set ranges from average student debt to unemployment rate among the population aged 25 to 34 to share of students with past-due loan balances. Read on for our findings, insight from a panel of researchers and a full description of our methodology.

Tip: If you’re considering borrowing money for college or are in danger of defaulting, we advise leveraging a Student Loan Calculator to determine an affordable monthly payment and payoff timeline.

 

Main Findings

 

Source: WalletHub

 

Student Debt by State

 

Overall Rank*

State

Total Score

‘Student-Loan Indebtedness’ Rank

‘Grant & Student Work Opportunities’ Rank

1 South Dakota 71.41 1 35
2 West Virginia 68.16 3 3
3 Pennsylvania 66.95 4 11
4 New Hampshire 65.15 2 43
5 Ohio 63.84 6 10
6 Mississippi 62.22 7 9
7 Michigan 60.28 9 12
8 Minnesota 59.13 5 49
9 Iowa 59.09 8 28
10 Indiana 56.53 10 20
11 Kentucky 55.79 17 2
12 Delaware 55.52 12 5
13 Kansas 54.07 13 18
14 South Carolina 53.93 14 16
15 Wisconsin 53.57 15 17
16 Vermont 53.01 11 38
17 Idaho 52.38 16 25
18 Montana 51.66 20 19
19 Georgia 51.40 19 23
20 Connecticut 49.63 18 41
21 Alabama 48.41 28 6
22 Rhode Island 47.77 23 30
23 Illinois 47.43 22 37
24 Tennessee 47.33 25 21
25 Nebraska 46.85 24 27
26 Missouri 46.04 21 45
27 Arkansas 45.55 30 14
28 New Jersey 45.09 26 39
29 North Carolina 44.61 33 7
30 Oklahoma 43.16 35 8
31 Maine 42.00 27 51
32 North Dakota 41.76 31 40
33 Oregon 41.64 34 24
34 Massachusetts 41.28 29 50
35 Texas 41.23 36 22
36 Louisiana 40.18 39 13
37 New York 39.05 32 48
38 Virginia 37.94 38 42
39 New Mexico 37.31 40 31
40 Colorado 37.15 37 47
41 District of Columbia 36.57 41 34
42 Nevada 35.40 43 4
43 Maryland 34.36 42 44
44 Florida 32.74 45 15
45 Alaska 31.88 47 1
46 Arizona 31.82 44 32
47 Washington 30.18 46 26
48 California 25.22 48 36
49 Wyoming 24.66 49 33
50 Hawaii 15.60 50 46
51 Utah 13.77 51 29

*No 1 = Most Student Debt
 

Source: WalletHub
 
 

 

 

Ask the Experts

Having more student debt than one can handle can produce significant troubles in the future. To advance the discussion, we asked a panel of experts to share their advice and insight with current and potential student-loan borrowers. Click on the experts’ profiles to read their bios and responses to the following key questions:

  1. What tips can you offer students looking to minimize the amount of debt they take out for higher education?
  2. Should the government reduce the amount of money students can borrow? How about basing the total amount a student can borrow on the quality of the university and employability of the degree/field?
  3. How do we slow the growth of higher-education expenses?
  4. How will the policies set forth by the Trump administration impact student borrowing and higher-education finance more generally?
  5. How does the growth of student-loan debt affect the economy?
  6. How should students and their parents think about the return on investment to spending on higher education?
 

Methodology

In order to determine the best and worst states for student debt, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across two key dimensions, including “Student-Loan Indebtedness” and “Grant & Student Work Opportunities.”

We evaluated those dimensions using 11 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 being granted to the state with the most student debt.

Finally, we determined each state and the District’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.

Student-Loan Indebtedness - Total Points: 85

Grant & Student Work Opportunities - Total Points: 15

 

Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Institute for College Access & Success, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Council for Community and Economic Research, U.S. Department of Education College Affordability & Transparency Center, Internships.com, United Health Foundation, LendEDU, The Pew Charitable Trusts and Indeed.