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The best and worst states for student loan borrowers

Graduates toss their caps at Boston University.
Pat Greenhouse | The Boston Globe | Getty Images

Collectively, America has nearly $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. That burden isn't evenly distributed among the states. Some states are more friendly to borrowers than others.

WalletHub, a personal finance site, ranked the 50 states and the District of Columbia on how advantageous they were for student loan borrowers. It searched for states with strong economic prospects and low college-debt-to-income ratios.

"No clear regional ties here. It wasn't like the best and worst states were concentrated on the coasts or in the South," said Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub analyst who conducted the ranking.

States were scored by several factors, including the unemployment rate for people age 25 to 34, the percentage of students with loans past due or in default and the availability of jobs for recent graduates.

"Generally, if a state did really well in one category, it did well in the others," Gonzalez said.

— By CNBC's Tom Anderson
Posted 4 Aug. 2016

1. Utah
Brigham Young University
Source: Brigham Young University

Utah topped the list with the lowest average student loan debt in the country as well as the lowest unemployment rate for people between the age of 25 and 34.

2. Wyoming
University of Wyoming Arts & Sciences Auditorium in Laramie, Wyoming.
Getty Images

Wyoming filled the second spot on the list of borrower-friendly states with the lowest proportion of student loan borrowers and people with the lowest percentage of student debt to income.

3. North Dakota
Getty Images

Low unemployment for graduates along with low student debt loads among residents earned North Dakota a spot in the top five borrower-friendly states.

4. Nevada
A political science class at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Ronda Churchill | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Nevada has the third-lowest level of student debt among the states and the third-lowest percentage of people 50 and older with student loans.

5. Virginia
Students walk past the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Getty Images

Virginia residents have a low percentage of student debt to income as well as generous in-state grant programs for college students.

45. South Carolina
University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina.
South Carolina | Collegiate Images | Getty Images

The Palmetto State was near the bottom of borrower-friendly states because of high average debt loads and fewer in-state grants and scholarships for college students.

46. Vermont
University Row on University of Vermont campus
Source: University of Vermont

Vermont, where home-state Sen. Bernie Sanders began his campaign for tuition-free college, has the highest percentage of student loan borrowers who are 50 or older of any state.

47. Pennsylvania
Penn State University campus in University Park, Pennsylvania.
Getty Images

The Keystone State has a large population of people with student loans, including those 50 and older.

48. Maine
A woman walks past the Colby College Museum of Art, whose windows reflect a mirrored scene of the school's campus in Waterville, Maine.
Gregory Rec | Portland Press Herald | Getty Images

High average debt and a big percentage of older borrowers make Maine less friendly to people with student loans.

49. Oregon
Oregon State University Beavers campus in Corvallis, Oregon
Oregon State University | Collegiate Images | Getty Images

Oregon residents have the highest student loan debt as a percentage of income among the 50 states.

50. West Virginia
West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia.
West Virginia | Collegiate Images | Getty Images

West Virginia has the highest percentage of people with student loans past due or in default.

51. District of Columbia
Georgetown University campus in Washington, D.C.
Astrid Riecken | The Washington Post | Getty Images

D.C. is home to the largest student loan lender in the U.S. — the federal government — and is not a state, but its residents have the highest level of student loan debt as a percentage of income in the nation.

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