Report: Here are the States Where People are Most Interested in Student Loan Forgiveness

Summer is upon us, and as another school year comes to an end, a fresh crop of college graduates are still excitedly celebrating their accomplishments. But before long, these graduates’ mailboxes will be filled with the dreaded notice that their student loan payments are due.

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Today’s typical new college graduate leaves school with around $31,100 in student loan debt. That number has steadily increased over the years as the cost of college continues to skyrocket out of control (see our previous report where we found the cost of attending college has increased at 5x the rate of inflation).

While some of these new graduates will undoubtedly land great jobs and be able to start paying off their loans, the reality is many of them will struggle to make the required payments. And as time goes on and interest adds up, many of these new graduates may soon find themselves in a situation faced by tens of millions of other Americans right now where they simply can’t afford to pay off their loans.

Student loan forgiveness has been a hot topic in the news as the Biden administration reportedly has been considering forgiving $10,000 of debt for qualifying borrowers (those who earn less than $150,000 per year, or less than $300,000 annually for married couples filing jointly).

The current pause on federal student loan payments that was enacted at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is set to come to an end in August, making it more likely that an official decision on the issue will be made later this summer.

While those in DC will continue to debate the social and economic consequences of student loan forgiveness in the coming weeks, we wanted to get a feel for what level of interest there is across the country for it.

Is the demand for student loan forgiveness something that’s consistent all across the United States? Or is it more prevalent in some regions of the country than others?

We partnered with Mindnet Analytics, a data science consulting firm, to compare interest in student loan forgiveness across all 50 states, combining search trends with publicly available demographic data.

Here’s what we found…

 

Overview

Search interest in student loan forgiveness has drastically increased in recent times:

student loan forgiveness interest

In the graph directly below, you can see the increase in search interest in student loan forgiveness before COVID and after COVID in each US state. Some states have seen a sharper increase in interest in student loan forgiveness than others:

student loan forgiveness map

While we expected states with a higher cost of living to see the greatest increase in interest around student loan forgiveness, our analysis did not find an association between the two metrics:

cost of living vs student loan forgiveness interest
Cost of living values: These values were taken from WorldPopulationReview.com which states, “Cost of living indexes are calculated by first determining a baseline for comparison. When comparing costs across states, the average cost of living in the United States is used as the baseline set at 100. States are then measured against this baseline. For example, a state with a cost of living index of 200 is twice as expensive as the national average. Likewise, living in a state with an index of 50 will cost about half the national average.”

 

State Rankings of Student Loan Forgiveness Interest

We calculated the increase in interest in student loan forgiveness for each state by subtracting the interest before COVID from the interest after COVID. These results are shown below and can be found in the table below:

Location Increase in Interest
South Dakota 63.7
Montana 57.4
Pennsylvania 57.1
Illinois 56.4
Ohio 56.4
Iowa 56.1
Minnesota 53.7
Idaho 52.8
Wisconsin 52.7
Michigan 51.5
Nebraska 50.4
Kansas 46.8
Wyoming 45.9
Florida 44.5
New Hampshire 42.1
Virginia 42.1
Georgia 41.5
Alaska 41.1
Delaware 41.1
Maine 40.9
New York 40.7
District of Columbia 40.4
New Jersey 39.9
North Dakota 39.9
Oregon 39.7
Missouri 39.5
North Carolina 39
California 38.1
Hawaii 38
Connecticut 37.6
Massachusetts 36.9
Rhode Island 36.4
Kentucky 36.2
Utah 35.6
Colorado 34.6
South Carolina 34.4
Washington 33.9
West Virginia 33.8
Nevada 33.4
Texas 32.9
New Mexico 32.1
Vermont 31.7
Indiana 31
Arizona 30.2
Louisiana 30
Oklahoma 30
Tennessee 30
Arkansas 27.9
Maryland 27.6
Alabama 27.3
Mississippi 24.9

 

Increase in Student Loan Forgiveness by Metro Area

We also calculated the increase in interest in student loan forgiveness for nearly 200 cities and towns across the country by subtracting the interest before COVID from the interest after COVID. These 50 metro areas have seen the biggest increase in interest for student loan forgiveness:

City Increase in Interest
Erie PA 46.6
Macon GA 42.6
Watertown NY 40.8
Parkersburg WV 40.7
Binghamton NY 40.1
Helena MT 39.7
Bangor ME 35.7
Wheeling WV-Steubenville OH 32.4
Montgomery (Selma) AL 32.3
Sioux Falls(Mitchell) SD 32
Quincy IL-Hannibal MO-Keokuk IA 32
Abilene-Sweetwater TX 31.7
Cheyenne WY-Scottsbluff NE 31.7
Jonesboro AR 31.7
Rochester NY 31.7
Jackson MS 31.5
Charleston-Huntington WV 31.4
Columbus OH 31.4
Monroe LA-El Dorado AR 31.4
Lexington KY 31.3
Elmira NY 31.3
Bluefield-Beckley-Oak Hill WV 31.3
Columbus-Tupelo-West Point MS 31.2
Columbus GA 31.2
Augusta GA 31.1
Duluth MN-Superior WI 31
Wichita Falls TX & Lawton OK 31
Jackson TN 31
Huntsville-Decatur (Florence) AL 30.9
Marquette MI 30.8
Biloxi-Gulfport MS 30.6
Albany GA 30.5
Charleston SC 30.4
Buffalo NY 30.4
Toledo OH 30.4
Birmingham AL 30.4
Ft. Wayne IN 30.4
Rochester MN-Mason City IA-Austin MN 30.4
Youngstown OH 30.3
Syracuse NY 30.3
Paducah KY-Cape Girardeau MO-Harrisburg-Mount Vernon IL 30.3
Baton Rouge LA 30.3
Bowling Green KY 30.1
Memphis TN 30.1
Little Rock-Pine Bluff AR 30.1
Flint-Saginaw-Bay City MI 30.1
Indianapolis IN 29.9
Shreveport LA 29.9
Hattiesburg-Laurel MS 29.9

Methodology

We extracted the frequency of searches in each state about student loan forgiveness using relevant search phrases. We then examined the differences in search frequencies for these keywords two years before COVID versus two years after the start COVID.

We controlled for seasonal changes in loan forgiveness interest by comparing a full two years before COVID to a full two years after. We used March 11, 2020 as the official start of COVID-19 as this is when it was declared a pandemic in the US.

We report the amounts searches increased in each state and city after COVID-19 began. We also examined the relationship between these trends and local cost of living in each state.

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