With recent student loan borrowers owing $28,565 in student loan debt, on average, monthly payments have become a sizable financial commitment that most consumers need to account for in their budget for up to a decade and possibly longer.
Pile a monthly student loan payment of a few hundred dollars on top of other recurring expenses, like rent and groceries, and the narrative that today’s young Americans are getting hit with a tight financial squeeze comes into focus.
After surveying more than 6,600 Americans in 2016, the Federal Reserve estimated the average monthly student loan payment to be $393, while the median payment was $222.
Financial website LendEDU, with the help of an aggregated analysis of anonymized data from Truebill users, took that study’s premise one step further and estimated the average monthly student loan payment in each of the 50 states.
We then estimated the amount of years it should take a borrower from each state to fully repay their student loan debt.
Average monthly student loan payments by state
The following figures are based on an aggregated analysis of anonymized data from Truebill users that featured nearly 150,000 unique monthly student loan payments. The payments are estimated to be for student loan debt through a Truebill algorithm.
Northeast states make the highest monthly student loan payments
One clear trend from the data is that states in the Northeast are making the largest monthly student loan payments, on average.
Massachusetts, for example, has the highest average monthly payment: $229.02. Northeast states closely following behind Massachusetts include:
New Jersey (2nd – $225.56)
Connecticut (3rd – $225.26)
New York (4th – $223.10)
Rhode Island (6th – $217.74)
Pennsylvania (8th – $216.38)
Maryland (9th – $216.32)
For reference, the nationwide average student loan payment was $210.73. Seventeen states had a figure higher than the U.S. average, while 33 states had a lower average.
The Northeast corridor has become an area of affluence due to the abundance of high-paying jobs in major cities like New York; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Boston; and Baltimore. Residents of these cities may be able to attack their student loan debt more aggressively without totally breaking the bank because of their larger salaries.
States in the West and Midwest tend to make smaller student loan payments
The above map also displays lighter shades of blue in both the South and West. States in these two regions tend to make smaller student loan payments, according to the data.
The state of Wyoming had the lowest average monthly student loan payment, $176.46, and was joined by other West states like:
Idaho (49th – $176.98)
Nevada (48th – $190.57)
South Dakota (47th – $191.74)
Nebraska (42nd – $199.18)
Moving back toward the East Coast, Louisiana has the smallest average student loan payment amongst states in the South: $192.62. Louisiana’s monthly payment size ranks 46th and the state is joined by other regional members including:
Oklahoma (45th – $195.25)
Florida (44th – $195.98)
Mississippi (43rd – $198.17)
North Carolina (40th – $199.32)
Whereas the Northeast’s affluence can be counted as a reason that region was making larger student loan payments, the opposite can be said for the South, which is typically thought to be the least prosperous area of the United States. Residents of the South may have a hard time affording sizable student loan payments with all of life’s other expenses and lower incomes.
Western states making smaller monthly student loan payments is a bit harder to understand, as that region teeters in the middle when it comes to affluence.
State-by-state, this is how long it may take to repay your student loans
The following figures are based on a LendEDU analysis that incorporated the insights deriving from an aggregated analysis of anonymized data from Truebill users with data from our annual Student Loan Debt by School by State report that lists the average student loan debt in each state. The two data points for each respective state were lined up to estimate how many years it may take a borrower to fully repay their student loan debt.
This analysis assumes that the monthly student loan payments remained the same until all student loan debt was paid off. It also assumes that a borrower remained in the same state from where they attended college until the debt was fully repaid. The monthly payments are estimated to be for student loan debt through a Truebill algorithm.
Western states estimated to be the quickest to repay student loan debt, while some Northeast states struggle
While many states in the West made some of the smallest monthly student loan payments, this region still dominated the top of the list when we ranked states according to how fast borrowers could fully repay their student loan debt.
With an estimated student loan debt payoff time of 8.14 years, Utah had the quickest repayment time. But other states in the West were not far behind, including:
California (2nd – 8.49 years)
New Mexico (3rd – 8.61 years)
Washington (5th – 9.30 years)
Nevada (6th – 9.88 years)
Arizona (7th – 9.90 years)
Colorado (8th – 9.97 years)
On the other end of the spectrum, Northeast states tended to rank unfavorably in terms of estimated student loan repayment time. At 14.40 years, New Hampshire had the longest time amongst the 50 states and found company in:
New Hampshire (50th – 14.40 years)
Connecticut (49th – 14.34 years)
Rhode Island (47th – 13.82 years)
Pennsylvania (46th – 13.68 years)
Delaware (45th – 13.39 years)
Vermont (43rd – 13.02 years)
Nationwide, the estimated student loan debt payoff time was 11.30 years. 19 states had a payoff time that was shorter than 11.30 years, while the payoff time for the remaining 31 states was longer. To find the U.S. payoff time, the nationwide average student debt per borrower figure of $28,565 was used.
California: Ideal for student loan repayment?
California had the highest aggregate ranking between the two respective tables included in this report. The Golden State paired the fifth largest monthly student loan payment size ($221.17) with the second quickest repayment time (8.49 years).
Much of why California performed so well in this analysis can be attributed to the state’s low average student loan debt per borrower figure, which was $22,530 and the fourth lowest amongst the 50 states.
Coupling low average student loan debt with the surplus of well-paying jobs due to the booming Silicon Valley tech industry, California has created an environment that is extremely conducive to repaying student loan debt.
Ultimately, it’s more about how much you owe, not how much you pay
The biggest factor in determining how long it will take borrowers to fully repay their student loan debt appears to be how much they owe, not how much they pay each month towards that debt.
If you sort the second table on the “Average Student Loan Debt” column from least to greatest values (by clicking on the column header until it sorts in ascending order), you will see that many of the states with the quickest repayment times remained at the top of the list because their average debt was also on the lighter side.
Conversely, if you sort that same table on the “Average Monthly Student Loan Payment” column from greatest to least values, you will see that many of the states that had the highest average monthly payments still ranked poorly when it came to repayment time.
Moreover, many of the aforementioned Northeast states that ranked so highly for their monthly student loan payments had some of the longest repayment times due to the average student loan debt per borrower figures in these states being in the low-to-mid thirty thousands.
The range from lowest average monthly payment to highest ($176.46 – $229.02) was much smaller than the range from lowest average student loan debt figure to highest ($19,742 – $38,776). The former was a 26% difference, while the latter was a 65% difference.
Most of the data that can be found in this report derives from an aggregated analysis of anonymized data from Truebill users, which included nearly 150,000 student loan payments ranging from 2015 to 2019. The payments are estimated to be for student loan debt through a Truebill algorithm that uses certain criteria to estimate what the payments are specifically intended for.
The first table and map found in this report derives from that aggregated analysis of anonymized data from Truebill users and the state-by-state averages were found through simply sorting the data based on state and averaging those respective figures. That data is used in the second table in the same manner, but it was also combined with LendEDU’s data from our annual Student Loan By School by State report.
To find the repayment time, we matched each state’s average payment size to the same state’s average student loan debt per borrower figure. Then, we divided the average student loan debt per borrower figure by the average payment size for each state and again divided the resulting figure by 12 to get the payment time in years. The payment time in years operates under the assumption that a student loan borrower made the exact same size payment each month until repayment was complete, in addition to assuming that a borrower remained in the same state where they attended college until the student loan debt was fully repaid.
LendEDU’s average debt per borrower figure derives from the Peterson’s financial aid dataset and a more robust methodology on how we calculated those state-by-state figures can be found here.
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