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Student Loans

U.S. Cities With the Most Student Loan Debt

December 27, 2019

By Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina is a freelance writer based in Orlando, Florida. Her work has been featured in publications like The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and more. She is focused on helping people pay down their debt and boost their income.


You’ve heard it on the news: student loans are a national epidemic. According to Experian, Americans carry $35,359 in student loan debt, on average. However, where you go to college and where you live can have a big impact on how much you need to borrow to pay for school and how much you’ll owe after graduation.


10 Metropolitan areas with the highest levels of student loan debt

While student debt is pervasive, it affects some metropolitan areas more severely than others. Experian reported that people who live in or near college towns tend to have the highest student loan balances.

To understand where education debt is the worst, we looked at 10 cities with the highest average levels of student loan debt based on Experian’s latest data.



10: Charlottesville, VA

Average Student Loan Debt: $42,476


Charlottesville is home to a number of universities and colleges including the American National University and the University of Virginia.


Among people aged 25 years and up, 54 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. That’s far greater than the 37 percent of all Americans who have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.


The large number of people with a degree is likely why people working in Charlottesville earn more money than the typical person, too. The median income for all Americans is $32,838. In Charlottesville, that number jumps to $36,400.


The biggest industries in Charlottesville are management and business services, accommodations and food service, and sales.


Related: The Average Cost of College



9. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA

Average Student Loan Debt: $43,290


There are dozens of universities in the Atlanta area, including Georgia State, Emory University, and Morehouse College.


Atlanta residents tend to be highly educated; over 43 percent of its population has a post-secondary degree. That benefit turns into higher salaries. The median earnings for the area is $38,400.


Finance, healthcare, and manufacturing are three of the biggest industries in the region. The largest employers, based on employee headcount, are Northside Hospital, The Home Depot, Emory University & Emory Healthcare, and Delta Air Lines.



8. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA

Average Student Loan Debt: $43,674


Many well-known and expensive universities are located in or near San Francisco, such as Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.


The Bay Area in California — which includes San Francisco — has grown by 600,000 people since 2010. That growth is because the San Francisco metropolitan area is the base for many major companies, including Salesforce, Wells Fargo, and Uber.


Because of the prestigious employers in the area, San Francisco has much higher levels of degree attainment. Over 53 percent of the population has a post-secondary degree, and the median earnings are $50,900.


Related: Best Cities for Young Professionals



7. Washington D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria, DC, VA, MD

Average Student Loan Debt: $43,797


The Washington D.C. area has many elite universities and colleges, including Georgetown University and American University.


The biggest industries are government, public school administration, and healthcare. To succeed in these fields, you need higher education, so it’s no wonder that over 58 percent of the population has received a college degree.


The median earnings are $56,700. However, the cost of living in Washington D.C. is quite high, so people may struggle to afford both their living expenses and student loan payments.



6. Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, CA

Average Student Loan Debt: $44,294


If you live near Santa Barbara, you may have gone to school at the University of California, Antioch University, or Westmont College.


The top industries in the area are in education, hospitality, and healthcare. Major employers include the Four Seasons, the University of California, and Pacific Diagnostic Lab.


About 52 percent of the population has a college degree, and the median earnings are $38,800.



5. Gainesville, FL

Average Student Loan Debt: $44,508


Gainesville, a city in northern Florida, is well known as the home of the University of Florida. It’s a relatively small college town, with just over 133,000 residents.


Over 52 percent of Gainesville residents have a college degree. However, the median income is lower than the national average, mostly because the biggest employers are in the service and retail industries, which can have lower wages. In Gainesville, the median income is just $30,800, which can make repaying your student loans difficult.



4. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA

Average Student Loan Debt: $45,396


The Santa Cruz area has one major college: The University of California-Santa Cruz. It’s also one of the region’s biggest employers, along with local government and administration offices and hospitals.


More than 50 percent of the metropolitan area’s population has a bachelor’s degree or higher. The median income for Santa Cruz is $40,200.



3. Ann Arbor, MI 

Average Student Loan Debt $45,668


Located outside of Detroit, Ann Arbor has a number of universities in it. The largest is the University of Michigan, which has over 28,000 undergraduate students.


Besides being the biggest school, the University of Michigan is also the area’s top employer, followed by Trinity Health and Ann Arbor Public Schools.


Ann Arbor has the highest percentage of college educated people on this list; 72 percent of the population have a bachelor’s degree or higher. With so many people getting degrees, it’s no surprise that Ann Arbor is among the top three in terms of student loan debt.


Read More: 5 Financial Tips for After You Refinance Student Loans



2. Corvalis, OR

Average Student Loan Debt: $46,164


Oregon State University is based in Corvalis, with over 24,000 undergraduate students enrolled. Corvalis is a relatively small town, with just over 50,000 residents, so the University is a major economic driver for the area.


Oregon State University is the biggest employer, followed by the Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center and Hewlett Packard.


Corvalis has a remarkably high number of people with college degrees. Over 61 percent have a post-secondary credential. However, the median earnings are relatively low; it’s just $36,100.



1. Durham, North Carolina

Average Student Loan Debt: $47,955


Known for its technology and educational facilities, Durham has a number of elite universities in or near the city. Some of the biggest schools include Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina Central University.


Those schools can be quite expensive. A single year at Duke University for an undergraduate student can cost $78,608 before financial aid. With such steep tuition fees, it’s no wonder that Durham leads the country in student loan debt.


Over 48 percent of the population has at least a bachelor’s degree, and the median earnings are $37,000.


Paying Off Your Student Loans

Whether your city is one of the 10 cities with the most student loan debt or not, paying off your education loans is key to your financial freedom. If you’re looking to pay off your debt as soon as possible and save money, consider student loan refinancing.


You can use ELFI’s Find My Rate tool to get a rate quote without affecting your credit score.*




*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.


Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

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Happy couple admiring their home
Should I Build Home Equity or Pay Down Student Loans?

Owning a home is a goal for many people. In fact, 40% of young millennials are saving to buy a home. If you already own a home, congratulations on achieving your goal! If you are now faced with a mortgage and student loans, you may wonder which debt you should prioritize. Should you build home equity or pay down your student loans?    Here we will explain what home equity is, how to build it and when it’s better to focus on home equity or paying down student loans.   

What is Home Equity?

When you pay on a mortgage, even if you haven’t yet paid it off completely, you’re building equity in your home. Home equity is the dollar amount that you’ve invested in your home by making payments to your mortgage lender. Here’s an example of how to calculate it:  

How to Calculate Home Equity

  You can calculate your home equity by subtracting the balance of your mortgage from the current value of your home. The value of your home is determined by the fair market value of your house or the appraised value. This number is the true value of your asset (your house) since it takes into account the amount you owe on the loan.    Your home equity is calculated in your net worth. You may have heard that home equity can be “tapped into.” This means you can borrow against the equity of your home and use the money in a variety of ways. A home equity loan can cover home renovations or pay off higher-interest debt.    Your home is valued at $375,000 and your mortgage balance is $275,000. You determine the equity by taking the value of $375,000 and subtracting the mortgage balance of $275,000. The equity in your home is $100,000.   

Home Equity and the Housing Market

  Every time you make a mortgage payment, you are building equity, because you’re paying down the principal on your loan. Your home’s equity also increases when its value rises. Although the value is determined primarily by the housing market, you can raise the value through home improvements.   Just as the value of your home can increase based on the market, however, it can also decrease based on the market. The only sure way to increase your home equity is by paying down your mortgage loan. The more of the loan you pay off, the more your equity increases.  

Building Home Equity vs. Paying Down Student Loans

  If you follow the normal payment schedule, you’ll increase your home equity slowly. If you make extra payments towards your mortgage, you can build equity faster. However, if you also have student loans, should you build home equity or pay down your student loans insead? Let’s take a look at some factors that can help determine the best course of action:   

Interest Rates

If either your mortgage or any student loan has a variable interest rate, you may want to focus on that loan first, because you are at risk that the rate can rise and leave you with a higher payment to make. In addition, if one of your loans has a much higher interest rate than the other, you may choose to focus on it first.  


With student loans, in certain instances, if you are facing financial hardships you can temporarily suspend payments. Mortgages offer less flexibility with payments, therefore missing payments can result in foreclosure and losing your home.  

Loan Balances

If you have student loans with lower balances than your mortgage, you may be able to pay them off more quickly. Then, you can continue to build equity after paying down your student loan debt.   

Tax Implications

You may get a bigger tax break by building equity versus paying off student loans. However, this doesn’t apply to everyone. Interest paid on student loans is deductible, however, there is a cap on how much. As of 2020 the cap is $2,500. Your income must meet the requirements to be able to deduct this amount.    Interest paid on mortgages is also deductible, but only if you itemize your deductions. The mortgage interest deduction can be much higher than $2,500. If you itemize your taxes, paying more on your mortgage may be advantageous for you come tax time.   

Refinancing Your Student Loans With ELFI

If you don’t want to choose between building equity or paying off your student loans, then consider refinancing your student loans with ELFI. Use our student loan refinance calculator to see how much you may be able to save.   

The Bottom Line 

Each person’s financial goals and situation are unique, so you have to make the best decision for you. Hopefully, however, knowing more about both options and which is better in certain circumstances will help you make an informed decision.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no­­­ control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.   *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.
Current LIBOR Rate
Current LIBOR Rate Update: October 2020

This blog provides the most current LIBOR rate data as of October 19, 2020, along with a brief overview of the meaning of LIBOR and how it applies to variable-rate student loans. For more information on how LIBOR affects variable rate loans, read our blog, LIBOR: What It Means for Student Loans.


What is LIBOR?

The London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) is a money market interest rate that is considered to be the standard in the interbank Eurodollar market. In short, it is the rate at which international banks are willing to offer Eurodollar deposits to one another. Many variable rate loans and lines of credit, such as mortgages, credit cards, and student loans, base their interest rates on the LIBOR rate.


How LIBOR Affects Variable Rate Student Loans

If you have variable-rate student loans, changes to the LIBOR impact the interest rate you’ll pay on the loan throughout your repayment. Private student loans, including refinanced student loans, have interest rates that are tied to an index, such as LIBOR. But that’s not the rate you’ll pay. The lender also adds a margin that is based on your credit – the better your credit, the lower the margin. By adding the LIBOR rate to the margin along with any other fees or charges that may be included, you can determine your annual percentage rate (APR), which is the full cost a lender charges you per year for funds expressed as a percentage. Your APR is the actual amount you pay.


LIBOR Maturities

There are seven different maturities for LIBOR, including overnight, one week, one month, two months, three months, six months, and twelve months. The most commonly quoted rate is the three-month U.S. dollar rate. Some student loan companies, including ELFI, adjust their interest rates every quarter based on the three-month LIBOR rate.


Current 1 Month LIBOR Rate – October 2020

As of October 19, 2020, the 1 month LIBOR rate is 0.15%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.15% (0.15% + 3.00%=3.15%). 


Current 3 Month LIBOR Rate – October 2020

As of October 19, 2020, the 3 month LIBOR rate is 0.24%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.24% (0.24% + 3.00%=3.24%). 


Current 6 Month LIBOR Rate – October 2020

As of October 19, 2020, the 6 month LIBOR rate is 0.25%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.25% (0.25% + 3.00%=3.25%). 


Current 1 Year LIBOR Rate – October 2020

As of October 19, 2020, 2020, the 1 year LIBOR rate is 0.35%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.35% (0.35% + 3.00%=3.35%). 


Understanding LIBOR

If you are planning to refinance your student loans or take out a personal loan or line of credit, understanding how the LIBOR rate works can help you choose between a fixed or variable-rate loan. Keep in mind that ELFI has some of the lowest student loan refinancing rates available, and you can prequalify in minutes without affecting your credit score.* Keep up with the ELFI blog for monthly updates on the current 1 month, 3 month, 6 month, and 1 year LIBOR rate data.


*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.


Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

Woman struggling with student loan refinancing misconceptions
7 Common Student Loan Refinancing Misconceptions

Refinancing is kind of like leveling up. After months or even years of working hard to become debt-free, you then gain access to a higher tier of borrowing - better terms, a lower interest rate or a smaller monthly payment. Many people have misconceptions about student loan refinancing, however, which keep them from taking advantage of the benefits that student loan refinancing has to offer.   If you're new to borrowing, it's easy to get scared of changing anything about your loan repayment process - even if that means losing out on the money that refinancing can save you. Here are some of the most common student loan refinancing myths - and what you need to know instead.  

Refinancing Student Loans Takes Too Long

Don't fall prey to the misconception that student loan refinancing is a lengthy, tedious process. In fact, refinancing student loans is usually very straightforward. You fill out an application and wait a couple of days for the lender to run your credit report and verify your personal information. Once that’s been completed, you’ll be presented with the refinance offers you qualify for.   The total length of time from beginning to end should take a couple of weeks. This also depends on how quickly you respond to questions from the lender and provide any additional forms or information they request.  

Student Loan Refinancing Has Expensive Upfront Costs

Unlike mortgage refinancing, student loan refinancing has no upfront costs like application or origination fees. That’s also why there’s no downside to applying for a student loan refinancing multiple times.   Plus, most lenders don’t charge a prepayment penalty, which is a fee for repaying the loan ahead of schedule. The only fee you’ll pay is the stated interest rate. You may owe a late fee if you make a payment after the due date, but that can be avoided if you set up automatic payments.  

You Need a High Income to Refinance Student Loans

While some lenders require that borrowers have a high income to qualify for student loan refinancing, others are more lenient. All lenders, however, care about the debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, which is your monthly debt payments divided by your gross income. Most lenders want a DTI percentage below 50%.   To calculate your DTI, add up your monthly debt payments including mortgage, car loan, personal loan, credit card payment and any other loans. Include a rent payment if you don't own your property. Then, divide that total figure by your gross or pre-tax monthly income.   If your DTI is below 50%, then you’re likely a good student loan refinancing candidate. If it’s higher, then you need to increase your income, decrease your monthly housing payment or pay down some of your debts  

You Need a Perfect Credit Score to Refinance Student Loans

Another misconception about student loan refinancing is that you need an excellent credit score to qualify, but lenders often accept borrowers with credit scores as low as 660. This is great news for young borrowers who haven’t built a strong credit history yet, or who ran up some credit card debt in college.   What may hurt your chances of being approved are any recent late payments, bankruptcies, defaults, liens or recent applications for other loans or lines of credit. Before applying to refinance your student loans, check your official credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com.   About one in five people have a mistake on their credit report, which can lead to an application being denied. Look at your credit report from all three credit bureaus - Experian, Equifax and TransUnion - and make sure you recognize all the accounts.   If you notice a mistake, file a dispute directly with each of the credit bureaus. It may take a few weeks to have it removed from your credit report. Make sure to follow up and verify that it’s been deleted.   You can check your credit score for free through a bank or credit card provider, or a service like Credit Karma. If your score is 660 or higher, you can feel free to apply for student loan refinancing.   You can increase your shot of being approved by applying with a cosigner. A co-signer is someone who agrees to assume legal liability for your debt if you stop making payments and default. The loan will also show up on the cosigner’s credit report.   Even if you can be approved to refinance by yourself, you may receive lower interest rates if you apply with a cosigner.  

You Can Only Refinance Once

A common misconception is that you have only one opportunity to refinance your student loans. In reality, however, there’s no limit on how many times you can refinance. Many choose to refinance every time the Federal Reserve decreases interest rates because they can get a better deal on their student loans.   The only thing that might affect how often you can refinance is your credit score. If your credit dips below a certain threshold, then a lender may not approve your application. Also, you may be denied if you lose your job or your income drastically plummets.  

You Refinance All Your Student Loans

Many borrowers have a mix of federal and private student loans and assume they have to refinance all those loans at the same time.   But borrowers can choose to refinance the loans they want. They can keep their federal loans as they are and only refinance their private loans. If they have a private loan with a low interest rate and one with a high interest rate, they can choose to only refinance the latter.   In some cases, borrowers may have a better chance of being approved if they only refinance some of their loans instead of all of them.  

Student Loan Refinancing is a Confusing Process

When you apply to refinance with ELFI, you’ll be matched to a member of the Personal Loan Advisor team. Every time you call ELFI, you can speak to that same person. This minimizes the confusion and frustration involved with the refinancing process.   As of 10/19/2020, ELFI has a 4.9 rating on Trustpilot with more than 1,200 reviews. More than 90% of those are five-star reviews. ELFI also has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no­­­ control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.