Study: Where Student Loan Borrowers Are Most Likely To Miss Their Payments

 March 14, 2019
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A perfect payment history on a student loan is a powerful thing. It could help you qualify for cosigner release with your private lender. Better yet, it could pave the way for student loan forgiveness via the federal government.

For many borrowers, however, making every single payment on time and in full can be difficult. Due to accruing interest, increasing payments and common snafus like a job loss, it’s not always possible to stay perfect.

But tell that to borrowers in the western U.S.

We analyzed which of 100 major metropolitan areas had the highest rates of resident borrowers with perfect payment histories — meaning they were never late on a single payment. We found that six of the top eight places represented Utah, California and Washington.

Below are our study’s full results.

Key takeaways:

  • Student loan debtors in Provo, Utah, have the best record when it comes to paying their student loans on time: 85.6% of borrowers there have never been late on a bill.
  • San Jose, Calif., and Madison, Wis., followed in second and third place, with 84% and 83.1% of student loan borrowers, respectively, sporting perfect payment histories.
  • Zooming out, we saw California cities take 4 of the top 6 spots among our rankings. Western region cities overall grabbed 6 of the top 8 places.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, borrowers in the South were the most likely to struggle. Nine of the bottom 10 metro areas with the lowest percentage of prompt repayers hailed from Mississippi, Florida, Tennessee and North Carolina.
  • Jackson, Miss. has the lowest rate of perfect student loan payment histories, at just 71.8%.
  • The Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla., metro area and Daytona Beach, Fla., tied for second to last place, as only 74.9% of student loan borrowers in each of those metros have perfect payment histories.
  • Phoenix, Ariz., and Wichita, Kan., represent the average: They tied to rank 50th among the 100 metro areas we studied, each with 79.2% borrowers hitting their payment deadlines.

Places where borrowers usually pay their student loans on time

12 Places Where People Pay Their Student Loans on Time
Rank Metro % of Borrowers Who Have Never Been Late on a Payment
1 Provo, Utah 85.6%
2 San Jose, Calif. 84.0%
3 Madison, Wis. 83.1%
4 Oxnard, Calif. 82.3%
5 Harrisburg, Pa. 82.2%
6 San Francisco 82.0%
6 San Diego 82.0%
8 Seattle 81.8%
9 Rochester, N.Y. 81.2%
10 Worcester, Mass. 81.1%
10 Milwaukee 81.1%
10 Allentown, Pa. 81.1%

1. Provo, Utah

Borrowers with perfect payment histories: 85.6%

Provo sits atop our rankings, as almost 9 out of 10 residents there haven’t missed any student loan payments. It helps that its residents don’t borrow as much for school as their peers in other states: Utah ranks 50th in the U.S. with an average per-student loan debt of $18,838, according to The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS).

Ogden, Utah, (42) also cracks the top 50 in our rankings, possibly because the Beehive State as a whole — besides having a lighter average debt load — has a smaller percentage of students carrying debt. Only 38% of Utahans are burdened by education loans, also the smallest proportion in the nation, according to TICAS.

2. San Jose, Calif.

Borrowers with perfect payment histories: 84%

The first of four California metro areas to fall into our top 10, San Jose might not be a surprise. The Silicon Valley hub is home to high-wage earners who manage their student loan payments right alongside the country’s highest cost of living: It’s 160% more expensive to live in San Jose than it is in the average American city, according to Sperling’s Best Places index.

Having a degree helps when seeking a high-paying tech job. About 64% of California students graduate from college within six years, according to the Chronicle for Higher Education, the ninth-best mark in the country.

3. Madison, Wis.

Borrowers with perfect payment histories: 83.1%

Madison, home to the University of Wisconsin, checked in third on our list, thanks in part to its graduation rates. More than 65% of the 25-and-older residents here hold an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

These degree holders are also finding jobs within the city more easily than elsewhere. Madison’s unemployment rate of 4.1% trumps that of the U.S. average (6.6%).

4. Oxnard, Calif.

Borrowers with perfect payment histories: 82.3%

The Southern Californian seaside city placed fourth in our rankings, narrowly beating Harrisburg, Pa. More than 82% of the residents here haven’t missed a student loan payment, either because they paid on time or enjoyed a respite such as a deferment or forbearance.

5. Harrisburg, Pa.

Borrowers with perfect payment histories: 82.2%

Students in Pennsylvania carry the second-highest average student loan debt in the union, a whopping $36,854. Two-thirds of these students leave school with debt, according to TICAS.

Of course, it’s easier to repay your debt when you have a degree that helps you land a salaried position. Pennsylvania students graduate within six years 62.9% of the time, the 11th-best mark nationally.

Pennsylvania is also represented by Allentown among our top 10.

Places where many borrowers don’t pay their student loans on time

10 Places Where People Don’t Pay Their Student Loans On Time
Rank Metro % of Borrowers Who Have Never Been Late on a Payment
100 Jackson, Miss. 71.8%
98 Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla. 74.9%
98 Daytona Beach, Fla. 74.9%
97 Toledo, Ohio 75.0%
96 Memphis, Tenn. 75.1%
95 Jacksonville, Fla. 75.3%
93 Miami 75.8%
93 Chattanooga, Tenn. 75.8%
91 Winston-Salem, N.C. 76.0%
91 Greensboro, N.C. 76.0%

100. Jackson, Miss.

Borrowers with perfect payment histories: 71.8%

There’s never just one explanation for a problem, but Jackson’s dubious distinction here could be at least partly related to the city’s unemployment rate. After all, it’s harder to stay current on your student loan balance without regular income. With this in mind, note that Jackson’s unemployment rate (12.4%) dwarfs that of the country’s average (6.6%).

In a similar study, Jackson was found to have the highest delinquency rates on education debt. More than 1 in 4 borrowers based here have fallen behind in repayment.

98. Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla., and Daytona Beach, Fla.

Borrowers with perfect payment histories: 74.9%

Two of the three Florida metro areas in our bottom 10 — Lakeland-Winter Haven and Daytona Beach — drew a tie. About 1 in 4 of borrowers living here have missed at least one payment due date on a student loan.

That said, only half of Florida students leave school with debt, according to TICAS, so there’s a sizeable proportion of college grads in the state that don’t face this issue at all.

97. Toledo, Ohio

Borrowers with perfect payment histories: 75%

With high unemployment (10.8%) and middling graduate rates, it’s no wonder Toledo, Ohio, ranked 97th out of the 100 metro areas we studied.

Another factor working against the city: On average, University of Toledo 2017 graduates left campus $28,260 in the hole on their student loan debt. More than seven out of 10 grads from the school have debt to repay, according to TICAS.

96. Memphis, Tenn.

Borrowers with perfect payment histories: 75.1%

Double-digit unemployment is just one reason why Memphis rounds out the five metro areas with not-so-sterling track records in student loan repayment.

Also probably to blame is the fact that just 31% of 25-and-older residents hold a degree of some kind, compared with 39% nationally.

Dropping out could be at the root of the problem. Less than half of Tennessee students (47.9%) graduate from college within six years of starting their freshman campaign. That fact undoubtedly helped pushed Chattanooga (93rd) and Nashville (80th) down our rankings as well.

Paying student loans promptly: How the top U.S. metros compare

How to keep pace with your student loan payments

Setting up autopay is the simplest way to ensure you never miss a payment. It automatically sends your dues directly from your bank account to your lender or loan servicer. Enrolling also typically comes with an interest-rate reduction that subtracts your APR by 0.25%.

On the other hand, autopay might not be a feasible option if you’re struggling to make payments or just learning how repayment works. Depending on your stage of repayment, here are some strategies to help you keep pace:

  • If you’re new to student loans: Pay attention during entrance counseling as you borrow a federal student loan to learn how the repayment process works. For example, you typically receive a six-month grace period on your debt after you leave school, during which you don’t need to submit payments. The same goes if you’re considering taking out a private student loan. Get to know your (potential) lender to learn about your responsibility before reality hits.
  • If you’re starting repayment: If you don’t remember the details of your federal loans’ exit counseling or haven’t touched base with your servicer or private lender, now is the time to open the lines of communication and get on the same page about next steps. Not sure how much you owe and to which lenders? Start by accessing your loan information via the National Student Loan Data System.
  • If you’re struggling to meet your monthly payment: For federal loans, consider switching to an income-driven repayment plan or, in more serious situations, applying to pause your repayment via deferment or forbearance. Lowering your monthly payments with a private lender can be more tricky, so reach out to your lender to review your options. For more permanent fixes, consider two other levers you could pull to ease your repayment: budgeting to trim your expenses and climbing the career ladder (or starting a side hustle) to increase your income. Both strategies will give you more breathing room.
  • If you’re ready to put your repayment into overdrive: With months or years of prompt payments under your belt, a credit score on the rise and steady income, consider student loan refinancing to lower your interest rate. That could potentially help you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars of interest during repayment. Refinancing would also allow you to consolidate your federal and private loans into one single debt with the lender of your choice. Just be sure you’re OK giving up the safeguards attached to your federal loans (such as pathways to loan forgiveness), as you’ll lose access to those if you refinance.

No matter where you stand in your repayment, there’s a way to avoid sinking. Choose the route that helps you stay prompt with your payments so you can leave delinquency, default and the extra cost behind.


Using a sample of anonymized credit reports from June through August 2018 taken from over 435,000 My LendingTree users with student loan debt, we calculated the percentage of people who have never had a payment status of 30 days or more late on any loan during the period covered by the reports (usually six years).

Loans in deferment or forbearance were included in this data, meaning that some borrowers wouldn’t have had a payment due for every month during the period under review. Our data isn’t limited to students — it also includes parents and others who borrowed on behalf of students.

My LendingTree is a free credit monitoring service available to the general public, regardless of their debt and credit histories, or whether they’ve pursued loans on a LendingTree platform. My LendingTree has over 9 million users.

LendingTree is the parent company of Student Loan Hero.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 9 lenders of 2022!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
1.74% – 8.70%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.74% – 7.99%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

4.44% – 8.09%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.74% – 7.99%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.89% – 5.90%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

1.74% – 7.99%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit NaviRefi

1.90% – 5.25%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

1.86% – 6.01%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

& Graduate

Visit PenFed

Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount

The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of May 4, 2022.

2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Student Loan Refinance Interest Rate Disclosure Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 2.99% APR to 8.24% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.99% APR to 8.24% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. The maximum rate for your loan is 8.95% if your loan term is 10 years or less. For loan terms of more than 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95%. Please note, we are not able to offer variable rate loans in AK, IL, MN, NH, OH, TN, and TX. Let us know if you have any questions and feel free to reach out directly to our team.

3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. ‍All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Apr 22, 2021 and may increase after consummation.

4 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

Fixed rates range from 3.49% APR to 7.99% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates from 1.74% APR to 7.99% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates on 5-, 7-, and 10-year terms are capped at 8.95% APR; 15- and 20-year terms are capped at 9.95% APR. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.

5 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

All credit products are subject to credit approval.

Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit

As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.

Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.

Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.

Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.


This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.

6 Important Disclosures for Navient.

Navient Disclosures

You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 2.99% – 8.24% APR (2.74% – 7.99% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 1.99% APR to 8.24% APR (1.74% – 7.99% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.

7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 11/15/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.49% APR – 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.

8 Important Disclosures for PenFed.

PenFed Disclosures

Fixed Rate Loan Terms: 5 years/60 monthly payments, 8 years/96 monthly payments, 12 years/144 monthly payments or 15 years/180 monthly payments. Annual Percentage Rate is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed rates range from 3.29% to 5.43% APR. Rates are subject to change without notice. Fixed APR: Fixed rates will not change during the term. This rate is expressed as an APR. Since there are no fees associated with this loan offer, the APR is the same percentage as the actual interest rate of the loan. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.