It’s often said that college comprises the best 4 years of your life. However, those 4 years can cost a pretty penny and leave most graduates in debt that can take years or even decades to pay off.
Managing student debt had become a normal part of many Americans’ lives until March 2020, when the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) froze student loan payments until September 30, 2020. Extensions of the initial CARES Act have extended that financial relief from student debt carriers through September 2021. An important aspect of student debt relief included in the CARES Act was the temporary institution of a 0% interest rate on student loans.
For many student debt carriers, that 0% interest rate has been a financial saving grace through pandemic hardships. However, as we know at Upgraded Points, everyone experiences and manages changes in debt and personal credit differently. In the case of CARES Act interest savings, we wondered how interest saved from the student loan freeze would vary geographically. Factors like the existing prevalence of student debt and existing interest rates could create huge differences in interest saved across state lines, which may in turn affect how states recover financially.
To understand how much interest was saved per U.S. state due to the student loan freeze, Upgraded Points compiled debt and interest totals across the country from Enterprise Data Warehouse’s Federal Student Loan Portfolio by Borrower Location. Based on these principal amounts, we calculated how much interest was saved over the 12 months that the student loan freeze has so far spanned. Having calculated the total interest saved per state, we were able to calculate the average interest saved per 100k residents and per borrower in each state.
Once we had calculated the interest saved per 100k people, per borrower, and across entire states, we mapped out the results so we could see which states’ residents saved the most in interest over the past 12 months of the student loan freeze.
See our results below:
The States That Saved the Most and Least Interest per 100k People
First, we looked at the interest saved per 100k people. The top 3 locales that saved the most interest per 100k people over the student loan freeze so far are the District of Columbia ($51.8 million), Georgia ($35.4 million), and Maryland ($32.8 million).
What made the top states so unique? For the most part, the top savings per 100k people resulted from a combination of small populations and high savings. For instance, in Washington, D.C., a large amount of total interest saved by the state’s student debt carriers ($366.1 million) was dispersed among a smaller population (705,749 people), yielding greater interest savings per 100k people.
Alternately, states with low savings per 100k people included Wyoming ($15.8 million), Utah ($17.1 million), and Alaska ($17. 2 million). Although many of these states have smaller populations, they also generally have lower principal debts and therefore fewer interest savings across the state. For instance, in Wyoming, the total principal amount owed at the beginning of the student loan freeze was $1.6 billion, a fraction of the national average principal: $28.3 billion.
The Interest Saved per Borrower
To get a better understanding of how borrowers themselves may benefit from the student loan freeze, we also looked at the interest saved per borrower, which offered some interesting distinctions from interest saved per 100k people.
Notably, the average interest saved per borrower across the U.S. was $2,001. The national average for principal saved per borrower was $34,971.
The most interesting differences occurred among the states that saved the least interest per borrower. North Dakota, the state that saved the least amount of interest per borrower ($1,625), was not among the top 10 states that saved the least interest per 100k people. Iowa has a relatively high number of borrowers per 100k people who would receive a smaller proportional share of total state interest saved than their relative proportion of savings per 100k people.
Other states like West Virginia, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island reflected a similar shift in standing when total interest saved was divided per borrower.
On the other hand, states that saved the most average interest per borrower were once again Washington, D.C. ($3,145), Maryland ($2,437), and Georgia ($2,360).
The Overall Interest Saved by State
Finally, we looked at the overall states with the greatest total interest saved. This number represented the total interest saved by all of the states’ borrowers over the course of the 12-month student loan freeze.
Across the country, the student loan freeze saved student borrowers from making payments on $1.4 trillion in total principal loan debt, aside from interest. This translated to a national total interest savings of about $82.7 billion.
The state that saved the most interest overall was California ($8.0 billion) which comprised nearly 10% of the national total. Slightly behind, New York saved $5.2 billion in interest. Such high total interest savings were the mark of a high number of borrowers in these high-population states.
From our analysis, we saw that across the country, national averages and total savings by state due to the student loan freeze were markedly high. However, on an individual borrower level, average borrowers only saved a couple thousand dollars in interest over the 12 months. While those couple thousand dollars could have been imperative in keeping borrowers in the black during pandemic-related hardships, these borrowers are still far from climbing out of the holes they dug in college.
For those students who are managing personal finance through and beyond the end of the student loan freeze, it’s so important to be smart and purposeful about credit. At Upgraded Points, we’ve spent years building credit card guides to help people maximize flexible points that can be used for everything from travel to a much-needed vacation.