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Top 10 U.S. Cities With the Lowest Student Debt

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If you have few student loans and are looking to relocate to a city where you’ll be in good company, the 10 on this list are a good place to start. We examined data from our eight million Credit Sesame members and researched cities where there are at least 350 members with open student loans.

This list features cities where a contingent of members have limited student loan debt—the least of any cities in our membership, in fact. So what can we learn from these enclaves of financial responsibility? Here are some key takeaways drawn from the data.

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10. Tucson, Arizona

Tuscon, AZ

Tuscon, AZ

Average student loan balance: $44,388
Average open loans: 5

Just one in four residents of this southern Arizona city of nearly 532,000 people hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, and the median income is $37,149. What’s more, the region employs more people in roles such as office and administrative support (17.5 percent of total employment), food preparation and serving (10.1 percent) and health care practitioner and technical (6.5 percent) than the national average, many of which do not require an advanced college degree. It follows residents would thus have less overall debt.

9. San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio, TX | http://bit.ly/2cgzPiI

San Antonio, TX | http://bit.ly/2cgzPiI

Average student loan balance: $44,267
Average open loans: 5

As with Tucson, roughly one-fourth of San Antonio residents hold a bachelor’s degree or more—only in this case, the city is three times as large at nearly 1.47 million people. The San Antonio-New Braunfels region has similar employment patterns, as well, with statistically significant levels of office and administrator support professionals (18 percent of total employment), food preparation and serving (10.8 percent) and health care practitioners and technical (6.1 percent) compared to the national average.

By contrast, numerous other higher-paying sectors have lower–than-average employment in San Antonio, including management (3.6 percent), architecture and engineering (1.4 percent) and the sciences (1 percent).

8. Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs, CO | http://bit.ly/2cKUkVB

Colorado Springs, CO | http://bit.ly/2cKUkVB

Average student loan balance: $43,905
Average open loans: 6

On this short list, Colorado Springs holds the title of largest average balance coupled with the most average open loans. Well over one-third of residents hold a bachelor’s degree or higher at 36 percent, and nearly 93 percent graduated high school. Perhaps the relatively low balance yet numerous open loans suggests residents have been successful at pulling together funding for college from multiple lenders. The top occupation in the city is office and administrative support with more than 40,000 jobs, followed by sales and related roles (32,000 jobs) and food preparation (26,000 jobs).

7. Fort Worth, Texas

Ft. Worth, TX | http://bit.ly/2cgAxwg

Ft. Worth, TX | http://bit.ly/2cgAxwg

Average student loan balance: $43,611
Average open loans: 5

The city of Fort Worth has well over 830,000 residents and a bachelor’s degree average of nearly 27 percent of residents. Occupational data points likely are skewed by the presence of Dallas in the reporting area covered by the Labor Department, but the trends are similar to other cities—a disproportionately high percentage of office and administrative support workers (18.3 percent), sales and related (11.2 percent) and food preparation (8.9 percent) compared to the national average.

6. Dayton, Ohio

Dayton, OH | http://bit.ly/2cIAHia

Dayton, OH | http://bit.ly/2cIAHia

Average student loan balance: $43,144
Average open loans: 6

In a league all its own, Dayton is approaching 141,000 residents. Fewer than one in five residents hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Major employers include Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Premier Health Partners, Kettering Health Network and Montgomery County. The region has more workers in food preparation (9.8 percent), health care (7.7 percent) and production (8.1 percent) than the national average but fewer in office and administrative support (14.8 percent), personal care (2.2 percent) and legal careers (0.5 percent).

There are standout careers, though, that might account for some of those student loans: The region employs more computer and mathematical professionals (3.1 percent) and architects and engineers (2.7 percent) than the national average.

5. El Paso, Texas

El Paso, TX | http://bit.ly/2cALrjv

El Paso, TX | http://bit.ly/2cALrjv

Average student loan balance: $42,161
Average open loans: 6

Fewer than one in four residents has a bachelor’s degree or higher in this community of roughly 680,000 people. Top employment categories include office and administrative support (18.6 percent), sales and related (12.1 percent) and food preparation (10.8 percent), all of which are higher than the national average. Careers in education, training and library (7.4 percent) are 1.2 percentage points above the national average.

4. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Oklahoma City, OK | http://bit.ly/2cIfQ0h

Oklahoma City, OK | http://bit.ly/2cIfQ0h

Average student loan balance: $42,054
Average open loans: 5

Nearly 29 percent of residents in this city of nearly 257,000 people have a bachelor’s degree. Top employment categories that are higher than the national average include food preparation (9.7 percent), and community and social service (1.7 percent).

3. Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, NV | http://bit.ly/2cgClWj

Las Vegas, NV | http://bit.ly/2cgClWj

Average student loan balance: $41,873
Average open loans: 5

Sin City has approximately 624,000 residents, just over one in five of whom (roughly 22 percent) have a bachelor’s degree or higher. As one might expect in a city with dozens upon dozens of eating and entertainment venues, food preparation accounts for a disproportionately high number of jobs (15.8 percent) along with sales (11.7 percent).

2. Bronx, New York

Bronx, NY | http://bit.ly/2ciLHp9

Bronx, NY | http://bit.ly/2ciLHp9

Average student loan balance: $40,133
Average open loans: 5

The Bronx Borough of New York boasts more than 1.45 million residents and a bachelor’s degree rate of just over 18 percent. Data from 2007 to 2012 (see page 2 of this document) show the region has gained in health care, social assistance and retail trade jobs while losing higher-paying careers such as financial activities, manufacturing and construction.

1. San Jose, California

San Jose, CA | http://bit.ly/2d0k7K8

San Jose, CA | http://bit.ly/2d0k7K8

Average student loan balance: $37,942
Average open loans: 4

The city with the most Credit Sesame members who have the lowest overall student loan balances is San Jose, located southeast of San Francisco. This community of nearly 1.03 million residents has an impressively higher percentage of bachelor’s-degree-or-higher holders at more than 38 percent.

They also boast the fewest average open loans of any city on this list. The lower student loan balances might be attributed to more people having careers that enable them to pay down those loans—for example, San Jose has a disproportionately high number of management professionals (8.5 percent of all employment in the region), and business and financial operations (7.1 percent).

Without question, the fact that a region has low student loan balances can be attributed to many factors, not all of which we’ve pinpointed here. But it appears a combination of career choices, geographic location and upward mobility in the workplace all have something to do with it.

Methodology

To formulate our study, we drew on our database of more than eight million members. We focused on cities that had a minimum of 350 active Credit Sesame users with at least one open student loan account. We analyzed the average student loan balance per person as well as the average number of total loans held per member, regardless of income or education level.

We ranked our cities from the highest average balance to lowest based on this information.

All city samples are statistically significant given each city’s population size.

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