Special Report

States Where People Struggle Most With Student Debt

Student loan debt in America reached $1 trillion in 2012 — 54 years after passage of the National Defense Education Act of 1958, the country’s first federally supported student loan initiative. By 2019, just nine years later, that amount had risen to more than $1.7 trillion — an amount expected to keep increasing without legislative intervention.  

A federal COVID-19 relief measure has temporarily suspended repayment of student loans, but according to EducationData.org, the average student loan debt for graduates of the Class of 2021 stands at $36,900, with an average monthly minimum payment (when resumed) of $433. That marks a 76% increase over the amount owed by members of the Class of 2000. Since 2013 alone, the total national student loan debt load has ballooned by over 600%. (Consider what it costs to attend the most expensive college in every state.)

This sharp rise in the cost of higher education has burdened millions of recent college graduates and young working adults with a level of debt that can delay important life decisions. Buying a home, investing for retirement, starting a business, saving for rainy days, or simply having money to spend on goods and services remain out of reach for many.  

Most people simply live with their student loan debt until they finally pay it off, well into their 30s or 40s or beyond. According to data from StudentAid.gov, 14.2 million student loan debtors between the ages of 35 and 49 owe a total of $602 billion. Another $349 billion is owed by people 50 years or older.  

Click here to see the states where people struggle most with student loan debt.

Borrowers can default on their monthly student loan payments and risk having their debt go into collections for different reasons, but one of the most important is the lack of employment opportunities that match their educational and professional histories. These are the cities losing the most jobs in every state.

This list reveals how the total amounts owed and the amounts in collections vary from state to state.

To identify the states with the most student loan debt in collections, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the share of people with a credit report in each state who have student debt in collections from “Debt in America 2021,” a report by the Urban Institute, based on credit bureau data from 2020. The share of student debt in collections is the percentage of total individuals with any form of student debt that is open, deferred, and sent out to a collection agency.