2017 Study Reveals Best and Worst States to Repay Student Debt

Student Loan Hero

The good news is that after years of big increases in college costs and student loan balances, we’re finally seeing a plateau. The most recent batch of graduates owed less on student loans.

Student Loan Hero, a leading financial news and education site, has released its annual Student Loan Affordability Study for 2017. The study compares average student loan balances to wages and costs of living to find out how affordable this debt is (or isn’t) in each state.

Comparing results year over year, the study reveals that student loans are more affordable for the newest batch of college graduates:

  • Average student loan balance: $27,822
  • Average annual wage: $49,630
  • Ratio of student payments to disposable income: 14.57 percent

In the 2016 version of the study, student loan payments ate up an average of 17.3 percent of borrowers’ disposable incomes. In 2017, student loan payments were equal to 14.57 percent of disposable incomes, on average.

“The good news is that after years of big increases in college costs and student loan balances, we’re finally seeing a plateau,” said Elyssa Kirkham, lead researcher on the study. “The most recent batch of graduates owed less on student loans. This trend, along with lifting wages, means these borrowers can more easily keep up with student debt payments.”

For instance:

— The Class of 2016 borrowed about $2,300 less, on average, than the Class of 2015.

— At the same time, average starting salaries remained steady at $50,359 in 2016, just above the $50,219 average in 2015, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

However, the study reveals that borrowers in some states fare better than others. Here are the top 10 states where student loans are most likely to be affordable and the percentage of disposable income devoted to student loan payments, on average.

10 Best States to Live In While Paying Off Student Debt

1. (Best) Utah: 10.01 percent

2. Washington: 12.16 percent

3. North Carolina: 12.46 percent

4. Colorado: 12.99 percent

5. Texas: 12.99 percent

6. Arkansas: 13.17 percent

7. Georgia: 13.28 percent

8. Nebraska: 13.28 percent

9. Virginia: 13.35 percent

10. Wyoming: 13.46 percent

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