This Is the American County With the Most Student Debt

The cost of higher education in the United States has been growing at such an alarming rate that total student loan debt in the country hit $1.7 trillion this year, after topping $1 trillion just nine years ago. This trend is well on the path to $2 trillion by the time current new college enrollees complete a four-year degree path.

Tuition for full-time students at an in-state public university hit an average of $10,560 for the 2020-2021 academic cycle, doubled in price compared to 2000-2001, according to the College Board. This means the average total tuition for the most affordable bachelor’s degree in the United States easily tops $40,000, and that’s before the costs of room and board, books and supplies, and other expenses. Going to an out-of-state college or a private university can more than double or triple the cost.

Considering that a college education can cost way more than the annual median wage of a full-time worker in their early 20s, it should be no surprise that so many Americans start their careers already weighted down with the yoke of higher-education debt that follows them for years. It is longer still if the type of education doesn’t lead to significantly higher earnings quickly after graduation.

A 2019 report from New York Life found that taking on too much student loan debt was a top financial regret among the survey’s 2,200 adults who reported taking an average of 18-and-a-half years to pay down the debt.

The ability to pay down student loan debt depends on a lot of factors, notably whether the degree you borrowed against led to a good job in your present location. A graduate with a coveted diploma in a large city with many job opportunities may have an easier time paying off the debt than one living in a less-populated area with fewer plum career opportunities.

With so much student debt sloshing around the country, many Americans find themselves defaulting on student loan payments.

To identify the county with the most student loan debt in collections, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the median student loan debt in collections among those residents in every state with such debt from nonprofit think tank Urban Institute’s Debt in America 2021 report. The Urban Institute used credit bureau data from 2020.

The share of student debt in collections, also from the Urban Institute, is the percentage of total individuals with any form of student debt that is open, deferred and sent out to a collection agency. Educational attainment comes from the American Community Survey 2019 five-year estimates.

York County, South Carolina, has the most student debt among all counties in America. Some of the details:

  • Median student debt in default: $23,965
  • Student loan holders with debt in default: 8.8% (number 1,908 out of 2,934 counties)
  • Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree as of 2019: 33.3% (372 out of 3,136 counties)

Click here to see the 50 counties with the most student debt.