Survey of $1.5 Trillion Student Loan Debt by State: South Dakota Most Debt, Utah Least

Student Loan Debt

The almost $1.5 trillion in student loan debt in the United States is one of the issues candidates running in the 2020 presidential election are touting, with Democrats backing plans ranging from forgiving all debt to making community colleges tuition-free. A new survey shows how debt is distributed across states and the District of Columbia.

The credit and finance website WalletHub has conducted research to determine which states have people with the most and least student loan debt.

The website compared the 50 states and District of Columbia across 12 key metrics, including average student debt, unemployment among people between the ages of 25 to 34, and the number of students with past-due loan balances.

South Dakota ranks No. 1 as the state with the most student debt loan. Rounding out the Top 10, in order, are Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Michigan, and Rhode Island.

The states, including D.C., with the lowest debt level, from 42 to 51, are Arizona, Alaska, Nevada, Florida, District of Columbia, Washington, Wyoming, California, Hawaii, and Utah.

“It’s not surprising that student debt has become such a high-profile talking point,” WalletHub reported on its survey. “After all, 10.9 percent of all student-loan debts 90+ days delinquent or in default as of [the first quarter] of 2019.”

“Save for mortgages, student loans make up the largest component of household debt for Americans,” WalletHub reported. “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 $1.49 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York,” WalletHub reported.

Some key findings of the report:

  • Utah has the lowest average student debt, $18,838, which is two times lower than in Connecticut, the state with the highest at $38,510.
  •  Utah has the lowest proportion of students with debt, 38.00 percent, which is 1.9 times lower than in New Hampshire, South Dakota and West Virginia, the states with the highest at 74.00 percent.
  •  Massachusetts has the lowest share of student loans in past-due or default status, 7.58 percent, which is 2.4 times lower than in Mississippi, the state with the highest at 18.34 percent.
  • Hawaii has the lowest share of student-loan borrowers aged 50 or older, 3.80 percent, which is 2.6 times lower than in Vermont, the state with the highest at 9.93 percent.

Wallet Hub described the methodology this way:

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, “Student-Loan Indebtedness” and “Grant & Student Work Opportunities.”

We evaluated those dimensions using 12 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.

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