WalletHub Study Ranks States with Most and Least Student Loan Debt

As the 2020 presidential election primary season heats up, one of the most talked-about campaign issues has been student debt. In fact several Democratic candidates have revealed plans to cancel the student debts of millions of Americans. Meanwhile a reported 10.9% of all student loan accounts were at least 90+ days delinquent as of earlier this year. With all that, the personal finance site WalletHub recently released a study ranking the states (and D.C.) in terms of their student debt burden.

To determine which states had the most and least student debt, WalletHub used 12 metrics looking at loan indebtedness and grant opportunities. For example, in terms of student loan indebtedness, the site examined the average student debt, the share of students with debt, student debt as a share of income, past-due or default status, and more. Additionally they assessed unemployment and underemployment rates, availability of student jobs, grant growth, etc.

With those factors considered, it was discovered that South Dakota was the state with the most student debt. Not only did the state rank first for indebtedness but also came in at number 46 for grant and student work opportunity. The state was followed by Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Although they placed third overall, West Virginia was actually ranked first in terms of grant and work opportunity. Rounding out the top five were New Hampshire and Iowa — which just so happen to be the two states that famously hold the nation’s first primary and caucuses respectively.

On the other end of things, Utah was found to be the state with the least amount of student debt. For comparison, South Dakota’s total score came out to 66.17 while Utah’s was just 15.67. The Beehive State was joined by Hawaii, California, Wyoming, and Washington in the bottom five, with the District of Columbia not far behind.

Looking outside of the overall rankings, WalletHub found that the northeastern states of Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island had the highest average student debt while the southwestern trio of Utah, New Mexico, and Nevada had the lowest. More specifically, Utah’s $18,838 average is less than half Connecticut’s average of $38,510. Also notable is that New Hampshire, South Dakota, and West Virginia were all tied for having the highest proportions of students with debt. Finally, in terms of student debt as a percentage of income (adjusted for cost of living), Mississipi, Alabama, and Arkansas had the highest percentage while D.C., California, and Hawaii had the lowest.

Not only does student loan debt promise to be a big political talking point heading into the 2020 elections but will also continue to be a major personal finance topic. Unfortunately the current problem is not an easy one to solve. Hopefully the conversation surrounding student loan debt will at least lead to some changes and help prevent more Americans from feeling the burden.

Author

Jonathan Dyer

I'm a small town guy living in Los Angeles looking to make solid financial decisions. I write for a number of finance websites, including HuffingtonPost and Business2Community. I founded DyerNews.com in 2015 to focus on personal finance and the emerging FinTech markets.

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