To find where loans pose the greatest burden, Lending Tree ranked all 50 states, not including the District of Columbia, based on three key student debt metrics: the percent of residents with education debt, the median balance per borrower and the rate of delinquency – being late on monthly payments).
Among the findings:
- Georgia was the first of three Southern states among the top five places with the biggest student debt problem. The Peach State ranked in the worst 15 for each of the metrics analyzed, including the second-highest median debt per borrower ($24,751), with only Maryland recording a higher average balance.
- Kentucky ranks No. 4 among places where student debt weighs heaviest. As student loan portfolios continue to grow nationwide, 26% of Kentucky residents on average, owe $21,464 in debt. Data also shows that 15.7% of Kentuckians are delinquent on their educational loans.
- The seven states with the smallest student debt problem were all located in the Western U.S., led by Wyoming. Just 19% of residents there have education debt, and their average balance checked in at a modest $17,017. Wyoming ranked in among the five best (i.e., lowest) in both of those categories.
- The story wasn’t so straightforward for some states. Minnesota, for example, reported the highest share of residents with student loans, with about 3 in 10 residents facing repayment — yet, on the other hand, a relatively low percentage (9.2%) of Minnesota’s student loan debt is delinquent.
The study showed Georgia is facing the heaviest difficulties on the student debt front. More than 1 in 4 state residents (27%) borrowed student loans for higher education, and they owe close to an average of $25,000 apiece.
To make matters worse, about 14% of these Georgia borrowers said they were 90 days or more late on their payments. That’s significantly higher than the approximately 11% of borrowers nationwide who are delinquent on their education debt by 90 days or more.
Ranking just below Georgia were…
2. Ohio: The Buckeye State was fourth in terms of the percentage of residents carrying student debt (at 30%) and sixth for median outstanding student loan balance (at $22,828). On the other hand, Ohio’s relatively low delinquency rate of 12.1% may have kept the state from outranking Georgia on the overall list.
3. South Carolina: The state registered the fourth-highest average student loan debt balance (at $23,813) and the seventh-highest delinquency rate (at 14%). One piece of good news: 25% of South Carolinians have student debt, placing it in the middle of the pack (25th) for that metric.
At the other end of the scale, some states have a more favorable student loan situation, with the best being that of Wyoming.
Fewer than 1 in 5 residents (19%) here have student debt to fend off, and they owe just $17,017 on average. These numbers shine in comparison to the 69% of Class of 2019 graduates nationally who borrowed an average of $29,900 for their degrees.
Wyoming residents also appear better equipped to stay current on their loan repayment — more than 9 of every 10 borrowers in the state said their repayment was on track and they had avoided delinquency.
Rounding out the three states with the lightest student debt burden were Washington and Utah, each of which ranked 40th or below for all three of the metrics analyzed.
Washington state alumni seem to be relying less on borrowing as a means for covering their cost of attendance.
Not all states share such a black-and-white story, of course. Minnesota, for example, was 10th overall, with a country-high 30% of its residents burdened with education debt. And yet, its delinquency rate (9%) ranked 39th highest, meaning that Minnesotans do a better job than most at avoiding late payments.
Likewise, Louisiana (15th overall) showed an exceptionally high share with delinquent student loan debt (15%), but the state was buoyed by its relatively low median student loan balance per borrower ($20,270).