Student loan debt is higher than ever, and is showing no signs of going away anytime soon. However, you may be surprised to find that some parts of the country are being hit harder than others by the rising debt levels.
And, some are doing pretty well. Schools.com recently tabulated a list of the best states for repaying student loans, based on factors such as average salaries, cost of living, student debt-to-income ratios, and default rates.
Here are the five best states for repaying student loans, and some of the reasons that each one ranks so highly.
60% of Virginia's graduates have student loan debt, and the more than $25,000 in average debt they owe exceeds the national average.
However, Virginia's abundance of high-paying jobs and below-average cost of living make paying back student loans more affordable than in most other states. The average wage in Virginia is over $50,000, well above the national average of about $46,400, so there is more money available to pay down debts.
And, less people have trouble finding work than in the other states in the area. Virginia's unemployment rate of 5.6% is below the national average, while the surrounding states of Maryland, West Virginia, and North Carolina have unemployment rates of 6.4%, 6.6%, and 6.8%, respectively.
In fact, Virginia has one of the best average debt-to-income ratios among its borrowers, even though those same borrowers have an above-average level of debt. As a result, Virginia's student loan default rates of 10% is well below the national average of 13.7%.
Other than Virginia, the rest of the most borrower-friendly states are in the Western half of the U.S., beginning with Nevada. There are several possible reasons for this, but it is most likely due to the lower cost of living and lower tuition expenses in the Western U.S.
Because of this, graduates tend to rack up lower debt levels and have more discretionary income to apply toward their loan balances. The main reason that Nevada didn't rank even higher on the list is it's 7.6% unemployment rate, which is the fourth highest in the U.S.
Nevada has one of the lowest average student debt levels ($20,568) and just 41% of Nevada's college grads have student loan debt, which is the lowest in the nation. These two facts combine to produce the lowest student debt rate in the country.
Not only do Washington residents have the highest adjusted annual income in the country, but they also have the added benefit of paying no state income tax.
Even though more than half (56%) of the college graduates of Washington have some student loan debt, the high incomes in the state and relatively low unemployment rate of 5.6% help make the debt more manageable for most borrowers. This is why Washington has one of the lowest student loan default rates in the U.S. (less than 12%), which implies that not too many borrowers are having a tough time paying their loans back.
Wyoming has a very low unemployment rate of 4.6% that when combined with the state's low cost of living and the fact that the adjusted annual earnings is one of the nation's highest, it's no wonder that people have enough money to make their student loan payments.
Furthermore, less than half of the college-educated population (47%) has student loan debt, and those that do owe just $21,241 on average, which means that the debt itself is more manageable.
With one of the United States' highest average incomes and an extremely low unemployment rate of just 3.6%, which is tied for the second-lowest in the U.S., Utah is this year's best state to live in if you have student loan debt. Half of Utah's graduates have student loan debt and the average debt load of $21,520 is among the lowest in the country.
The state also has one of the lowest student debt-to-income ratios as well as one of the lowest default rates in the country of 11.2%. And, the cost of living is very low, so there is a lot of money to allocate to paying down student loan debt. The state's most recent cost-of-living index was just 93.0 (100 is the national average).
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