Student Loans: The Best & Worst States

Bills 5

“The party’s over!”

Yeah, cleaning up is always the worst part. You have carpet stains to scrub and garbage to haul away. It was fun while it lasted. Eventually, the bill comes due.

The same is true of student loans. Sure, you enjoy a six-month grace period. But it takes 3-9 months for graduates to land jobs according to Money. And skipping off to graduate school only delays the inevitable. When it comes to loans, this is what you’re up against:

  • 71% of graduates carried student debt in 2012, a 200,000 student increase over 2004 (The Project on Student Debt).
  • Borrowers owed an average of $26,000 in government loans, $19,000 in private loans, $18,000 in state loans, $13,000 in personal and family loans, and $3,000 in credit card debt (2013 Fidelity survey).
  • For the Class of 2014, average debt has swelled to $33,000 per borrower, nearly double what it was in 1994 (Edvisor).
  • In 2011, the national student loan default rate stood at 10%, nearly double what it was in 2004 (U.S. Department of Education).

Pretty scary numbers, huh? And there’s easy way out.




What’s more, where you live impacts how far your debt payments go. That was the finding of, an online education resource designed to help students advance their careers with exclusive data and reporting on colleges, degrees, professions, and salaries.

Recently, examined the correlation between states and students’ ability to pay back their loan using a proprietary metric. And they found that western states like Utah, Wyoming, Washington, Nevada, and California were the easiest states to pay back student loans. In contrast, eastern states like Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Vermont were the most difficult.

To compile this ranking, culled data from sources like the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Department of Education, and the Project on Student Debt in seven data points:

  • Average salary
  • Cost of living
  • Unemployment rate
  • State-level student debt statistics
  • Student debt-to-income ratio
  • Likelihood of having debt
  • Student default rate by state

From analyzing this data, codified a truth most graduates understand implicitly: Factors like income, cost of living, and employment rate play a big part in students’ ability to pay off their loans. To borrow a line used by real estate agents: “It’s all about location!”

“The best states for repaying student loan debt relieve that pressure by offering college graduates opportunity in the form of growing job markets, competitive salaries and perceived impact of student debt: cost-of-living coupled with earning potential, says Michelle LaFrance, Web Producer for”

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