Americans have never owed as much in student loans as they do today, with borrowers collectively shouldering a burden of $1.5 trillion last year. Amid all this debt, it’s unfortunate but not surprising that millions of Americans miss payments on their loans.
Delinquency on student loan payments can lead to default, causing long-term damage to credit scores and even lead to wage garnishment. While federal student loans generally allow 270 days of delinquency before default occurs, some private loans can enter default after just one missed payment.
Although the student loan crisis is a national one, Student Loan Hero wanted to see if borrowers in some geographic areas are struggling to repay their loans more than those in others. To find out, we took a close look across the 100 largest metros to see what proportion of student loan borrowers were more than 90 days delinquent on their debt — and the results were striking.
Here’s what we found.
Where borrowers are delinquent on their student loans
- Nearly 26% of student loan borrowers in Jackson, Miss., have been delinquent on their loan repayment, taking the top spot on our list.
- Two metro areas in Florida — Lakeland-Winter Haven and Daytona Beach — follow with the next-highest delinquency rates of 23.4% and 23.3%, respectively.
- At the other end of the spectrum, just under 13% of borrowers in Provo, Utah, have fallen into delinquency.
- San Jose, Calif., and Madison, Wis., have the next-lowest delinquency rates, at 14.1% and 14.4%, respectively.
- Southern borrowers are far and away more likely to fall into student loan delinquency. A full 14 of the 15 metros at the top of the delinquency list lie below the Mason-Dixon line, and not one Southern metro made it onto the list of 25 metros with the lowest rates of delinquency.
- Borrowers in the bottom metro of our list are half as likely to be have a delinquency than borrowers in the top — an extreme difference.
5 places where borrowers fall behind on student loan payments
1. Jackson, Miss.
Rate of delinquency: 25.6%
Among the top 100 metros in the U.S., Jackson, Miss., came in first for the highest rate of student loan delinquency, with more than 1 in 4 borrowers falling behind on their payments.
Part of the problem may be that Mississippi has a slightly lower graduation rate for college students, with 51.7% getting a bachelor’s degree after six years versus a national average of 53.8%, according to 2015 data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
Not having a college degree can limit earning potential, making it harder to repay student loan debt. If borrowers in these areas didn’t earn the degree for which they took out student loans, they could end up saddled with debt but without the means to pay it back on time.
2. Winter Haven, Fla.
Rate of delinquency: 23.4%
Winter Haven, Fla. came in second on our list, with nearly one out of four borrowers having gone delinquent on their student debt at some point during repayment.
Florida’s graduation rate for bachelor’s candidates is lower than Mississippi’s, at 48.5%, and only 12.3% of Winter Haven residents aged 25 or older have at least a four-year degree, below the national average of 19.7%.
3. Daytona Beach, Fla.
Rate of delinquency: 23.3%
Daytona Beach nearly tied with Winter Haven for rates of student loan delinquency, with its rate only 0.1 percentage point lower.
Rates of educational attainment among Daytona Beach residents were slightly lower than among those in Winter Haven, and among 18- to 24-year-olds, only 5.7% had a bachelor’s degree — about half that of the national figure of 10.5% for that same age group.
4. Memphis, Tenn.
Rate of delinquency: 23.2%
Coming in fourth in our list of places with the highest rates of student loan delinquency is another Southern city — Memphis, Tenn. Its nickname of Home of the Blues might refer to music, but it could also apply to its resident student loan borrowers, with nearly one-quarter of them struggling to keep up with payments.
In terms of graduation rates, Tennessee is also below the national average, with 50.4% finishing college in six years or less.
5. Toledo, Ohio
Rate of delinquency: 22.8%
Although our study revealed that borrowers in the South tend to face the highest rates of delinquency, the northern city of Toledo, Ohio, is an exception to the geographical rule.
With 22.8% of student loan borrowers falling behind on payments, Toledo has some of the highest rates of delinquency in the U.S. This is despite the fact that Ohio’s college graduation rate matches the national average.
Looking more closely at the city, however, we also found that Toledo’s unemployment rate is higher than average: 5.7% as compared with the national rate of 4.0%. Along with educational attainment, employment opportunities could be another factor that affects delinquency rates within a given metro.
|10 Places Where Borrowers Fall Behind on Their Student Loans|
|Rank||Metro||% of Borrowers Who Have Been Delinquent at Least Once (90 Days Late or More)|
|2||Winter Haven, Fla.||23.4%|
|3||Daytona Beach, Fla.||23.3%|
|10||Baton Rouge, La.||21.8%|
1. Provo, Utah
Rate of delinquency: 12.8%
While student loan borrowers in Jackson, Miss., had the highest rates of student loan delinquency, residents of Provo, Utah had the lowest, with a rate exactly half that of their Jackson counterparts.
Surprisingly, Utah’s graduation rate is a relatively low 46.7%, less than Florida’s. But on the other hand, educational attainment is above the national average: Among those 25 and older, 28.5% have a bachelor’s degree, compared with 19.1% for the country as a whole.
2. San Jose, Calif.
Rate of delinquency: 14.1%
San Jose had the second-lowest rates of delinquency in the country, less than 2 percentage points behind Provo. The strong showing comes within the context of California’s 66.3% six-year graduation rate for bachelor’s degree programs, putting in at No. 6 in the nation.
This metro area’s success with student loan repayment might also have something to do with its overall wealth. According to a 2018 study by 24/7 Wall Street, the San Jose metro area topped the list of wealthiest urban areas in the U.S., with a median household income of $110,040 and a hefty 22.8% of households earning $200,000 or more.
3. Madison, Wis.
Rate of delinquency: 14.4%
Student loan borrowers in Madison, Wis. are generally able to keep up with their student loan payments, with a delinquency rate of 14.4%. Home to University of Wisconsin, Madison, a school with more than 44,000 students, Madison has a population with relatively high rates of educational attainment. Within the metro area, 27.1% of those who are 25 and older graduated with their bachelor’s.
4. Harrisburg, Pa.
Rate of delinquency: 15.3%
Fewer than 1 out of 6 borrowers in Harrisburg, Pa. have fallen behind on their student loan payments.
Perhaps the city’s relatively low cost of living — 8% below the national average, according to Forbes — helps student loan borrowers save enough money each month to keep up with their student loan bills. Likewise, Pennsylvania ranks just behind California in college graduation rates, at 65.9%.
5. Oxnard, Calif.
Rate of delinquency: 15.9%
Oxnard, Calif. rounds out the list of metro areas with the lowest rates of delinquency among student loan borrowers. This southern Californian city also made the list of wealthiest areas in the U.S., coming in at No. 8 on 24/7 Wall Street’s list.
Among its residents, the median household income is $80,135, and 11.4% of households earn $200,000 or more. Oxnard adults aged 25 and over earn their bachelor’s at a rate of 21.9%, and 11.6% have a graduate degree or higher.
|10 Places Where Borrowers Keep Up on Their Student Loans|
|Rank||Metro||% of Borrowers Who Have Been Delinquent at Least Once (90 Days Late or More)|
|99||San Jose, Calif.||14.1%|
Rates of student loan delinquency: How the top U.S. metros compare
How to keep up with your student loan payments
Keeping up with student loan payments can be a big challenge, especially if you’re a recent graduate or are struggling to find a job. But falling into delinquency can cause even more problems, especially if your loan goes into default.
To avoid harming your finances, consider taking one or more of these steps with your student loans:
- Change your student loan repayment plan. If your bills are too high, find out if you can switch repayment plans. Federal student loans, for instance, are eligible for income-driven plans, which adjust your monthly payment along with your income. If you still have a balance after 20 or 25 years, it could even be forgiven. Although private student loans aren’t eligible, you can speak with your lender about your options. Lowering your bills might be the solution you need to avoid delinquency.
- Find ways to decrease your spending or boost your income. Once you’ve checked in with your student loan repayment plan, it’s time to take a close look at your budget. Figure out if there are areas where you can lower your monthly expenses. At the same time, look for opportunities to earn more, whether through switching jobs or starting a side hustle, such as driving for Uber or working for TaskRabbit.
- Refinance your student loans for new terms. Through refinancing, you can choose new repayment terms, often between five and 20 years. Going with a longer term could reduce your monthly bills, taking some of the pressure off your wallet. You might also qualify for lower interest rates than you have now, thereby saving hundreds or even thousands of dollars. The main downside is that refinancing federal student loans turns them private, meaning you lose access to federal plans and programs, so make sure you understand what you’d be giving up before you refinance with a private lender.
Even though student loans can be stressful, ignoring them will only make a tough situation worse. Instead, look for ways to adjust them into a more reasonable range. And if you start making more money, consider throwing extra payments at your loans to pay them off even faster.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2021!
|0.99% – 11.98%1||Undergraduate|
|1.13% – 11.23%*,2||Undergraduate|
|0.99% – 11.44%3||Undergraduate|
|1.50% – 11.33%4||Undergraduate|
|1.12% – 11.23%5||Undergraduate|
|1.15% – 11.01%6||Undergraduate|
|3.80% – 9.36%8||Undergraduate|
|* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a first year graduate student borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.10% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $141.66 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $16,699.21. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
Information advertised valid as of 8/9/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.
2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
3 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.
4 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Ascent loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs.
Rates are effective as of 10/01/2021 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes income-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentFunding.com/Rates.
1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions, please visit AscentFunding.com/Cashback. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student borrowers must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs are available for the most creditworthy applicants and may require a cosigner.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 10.66% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.12% to 11.23% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 10.90% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.10% to 11.34% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.08% to 10.86% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.05% to 11.29% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 10.66% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.20% to 11.23% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. 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. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 4/1/2021. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (>www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.15% – 11.01% (1.15% – 10.24 APR)Fixed interest rates range from 4.18% – 11.70% (4.18% – 10.83% APR).
Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.89% – 10.66% (1.89% – 10.41% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.64% – 11.23%% (4.64% – 10.95% APR).
Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.89% – 9.22% (1.89% – 8.50% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.38% – 10.44% (4.38% – 9.72% APR).
Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.89% – 8.02% (1.89% – 7.72% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.28% – 9.24% (4.28% – 8.94% APR).
Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.97% – 7.06% (1.97% – 7.06% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.94% – 8.58% (4.94% – 8.58% APR).
Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 4.44% – 9.58% (4.44% – 9.52% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.40% – 12.83% APR).
Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.53% – 7.03% (3.53% – 6.76% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.98% – 10.09% APR).
Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable Rates are based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of June 1, 2021, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.09%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%.
Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.
Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer. Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/Promissory Note, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank participating school.
Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
7 Important Disclosures for Funding U.
Funding U Disclosures
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are made by Funding University which is a for-profit enterprise. Funding University is not affiliated with the school you are attending or any other learning institution. None of the information contained in Funding University’s website constitutes a recommendation, solicitation or offer by Funding University or its affiliates to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments or other assets or provide any investment advice or service.
8 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
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. If you choose to complete an application, we will conduct a hard credit pull, which may affect your credit score. 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 Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.