Student Loan Forgiveness: Which States Are Most Interested (and Does It Correlate With Their Debt)?

A stack of one hundred dollar bills in a money wrapper labeled "Student Loan" on top of a blue graduation cap.
DNY59 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Student loan forgiveness is one of the hottest topics President Joe Biden has been mulling over so far this year.

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Every time the federal student loan moratorium nears its end date, discussion begins on either extending the rolling temporary loan forgiveness grace period or enacting “sweeping” legislation to overhaul the existing federal programs that have burdened U.S. students with $1.7 trillion in loan debt.

Before the pandemic hit, 10 million borrowers were behind in paying their student loan debts and 3 million students had outstanding loans exceeding $100,000, per CNBC.

According to CNBC, the Biden administration has said it is close to announcing details of its revamped federal student loan forgiveness model. It is thought that Biden wants to spend approximately $321 billion to forgive $10,000 from students’ loans — and completely eliminate a third of all current outstanding loan balances.  

Many advocacy groups and fellow Democrats are pushing the president to establish a broader, more compassionate loan forgiveness program, including more loan elimination and major reform to the existing federal student loan system.

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In an attempt to see where in the United States student loan forgiveness demand was most popular, My eLearning World collaborated with Mindnet Analytics to study loan forgiveness interest levels in all 50 states before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Its findings surprisingly don’t correlate with existing data on where state averages for debt at graduation were the highest.

Using search trends and demographic data before and after the pandemic, the study found the following 10 states have had the biggest increases in personal interest regarding the concept of student loan forgiveness, according to My eLearning World.

  1. South Dakota.
  2. Montana.
  3. Pennsylvania.
  4. Illinois.
  5. Ohio.
  6. Iowa.
  7. Minnesota.
  8. Idaho.
  9. Wisconsin.
  10. Michigan.

In contrast, in its “Student Debt and the Class of 2020” report, The Institute for College Access & Statistics (TICAS) found that state averages for public and private college student debt at graduation varied widely, from Utah’s ~$18,350 average to New Hampshire’s ~$39,950.

But none of the 10 states listed above were among the top 10 states with the largest average student loan debt per borrower — with the exception of Pennsylvania, which ranked third on both lists. For whatever reason, respondent interest levels around student loan forgiveness do not seem to correlate with average loan debt across states.

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Here is TICAS’ list of the states with the largest loan debt per student upon graduation.

  • 1. New Hampshire: $39,928.
  • 2. Delaware: $39,705.
  • 3. Pennsylvania: $39,375.
  • 4. Rhode Island: $36,791.
  • 5. Connecticut: $35,853.
  • 6. New Jersey: $35,117.
  • 7. Vermont: $34,866.
  • 8. Massachusetts: $33,457.
  • 9. District of Columbia: $32,966.
  • 10. Maine: $32,764.

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About the Author

David Nadelle is a freelance editor and writer based in Ottawa, Canada. After working in the energy industry for 18 years, he decided to change careers in 2016 and concentrate full-time on all aspects of writing. He recently completed a technical communication diploma and holds previous university degrees in journalism, sociology and criminology. David has covered a wide variety of financial and lifestyle topics for numerous publications and has experience copywriting for the retail industry.
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