The personal finance website WalletHub analyzed student loan indebtedness and grant and student work opportunities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia using 11 metrics graded on a 100-point scale.
For student indebtedness, which comprised 85% of the total points, researchers looked at average student debt, proportion of students with debt, student debt as a share of income, students with past-due or defaulted loans and share of federal student loan borrowers enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan.
The results show Louisiana ranked 25th overall with 47.42 points. The Pelican State came in 31st nationally for student loan indebtedness and third for grant and student work opportunities.
Those figures are much better than neighboring Mississippi’s fifth place ranking, but slightly worse than neighboring Arkansas and Texas, which ranked 29th and 28th, respectively.
West Virginia, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, New Hampshire and Mississippi comprised the top five states for student debt in the analysis overall, while New Mexico, Washington, California, the District of Columbia and Utah fared the best.
New Hampshire topped the list with the highest average student debt, followed by Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The lowest average student debt was in Utah, followed by New Mexico, California, Nevada and Wyoming.
Utah’s average student debt of $18,344 was 2.2 times lower than New Hampshire’s average of $39,928.
Utah also had the lowest proportion of students with debt at 39%, which is nearly two times lower than South Dakota, the state with the highest at 73 percent.
Lucia Dunn, professor emerita at Ohio State University, explained how students can evaluate whether student debt will ultimately pay off.
“A big problem today is that students take on amounts of debt that cannot be readily supported by the earnings in the field they major in. If a particular field has expected earnings that can allow for student loan repayment and still provide a ‘normal’ living standard, then it makes sense to take out the loan and get the degree in that field,” she said. “If a major does not pass this test, then a student may want to consider other options.”
The WalletHub analysis comes as President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced plans to grant $10,000 in student loan forgiveness for millions of borrowers who qualify. The plan would forgive $20,000 in debt for students who went to college on Pell Grants.
Biden posted to Twitter that the forgiveness would apply to those earning less than $125,000 a year and would include a student loan pause extended “one final time” through December 31, 2022.