Financial Fitness Zone

The states with the most student loan debt

As student loan debt continues to climb, President Barack Obama recently announced plans to expand loan relief programs, including a cap on monthly payments at 10 percent of household income.

Whether or not these changes are the solution to what some have called a student loan debt crisis, people who struggle to make their monthly payments would likely welcome any relief. Of borrowers who entered repayment in 2010, 14.7 percent defaulted within three years. Unsurprisingly, the default rate has been on the rise for years, and those who fail to pay face severe consequences, including poor credit scores and wage garnishment.

Most Americans earning bachelor's degrees (71 percent) graduate with student debt — the average is $29,400 of federal and private student loans. The average amount of federal loans borrowed is just under $25,000, according to data from the Department of Education, and there are 19 states (and the District of Columbia) where the average is higher. Here are the 10 states where federal student loan borrowers have the greatest debt burden.

Average Federal Student Loan Debt Per Borrower

10. New York — $25,911
9. Oregon — $26,232
8. Illinois — $26,291
7. Alabama — $26,357
6. Florida — $26,462
5. Virginia — $26,596
4. South Carolina — $26,882
3. Maryland — $27,977
2. Georgia — $29,087
1. District of Columbia — $38,151

The rankings are a little different when private student loans are thrown in. (Private student loans require a credit check and often a co-signer, because students tend to not have credit histories when starting college. The interest rates often end up higher than those of federal loans, and there also tends to be less flexibility for borrowers struggling to repay.)

The burden of student loans has a lot more to do with affordability than loan balance: Many debt experts advise borrowers to graduate with no more student loans than your starting salary, so taking on $29,400 of debt has a completely different impact on a social worker and an engineer. No matter what, you want to make sure you can make loan payments, because missed payments will hurt your credit score. To know how your student loans affect your credit standing, you can get two of your credit scores for free through Credit.com.

More From Credit.com:

Can You Get Your Student Loans Forgiven?        

Strategies for Paying Off Student Loan Debt       

How to Consolidate Student Loans