A recent report found that residents of Dallas County are struggling with student loan debt

A new report shows just how big of a burden student loan debt is for the residents of Dallas County, Texas. Texas ranks 15 in the nation for highest average student debt per graduate.

Dallas residents in particular owe a total of $10.9 billion in student loans—approximately the same debt amount carried for auto loans, according to the recent Dallas Economic Opportunity Assessment. This isn’t new for the area as the total volume of its student loans has jumped 380 percent since 2003.

A closer look shows a more startling statistic: 47.9 percent of the debt is carried by 393,000 residents with subprime and deep subprime credit. In other words, these debtholders have problems paying back their loans. Furthermore, $1.4 billion of Dallas County's student debt is at least 90 days past due, according to Dallas News.

But there’s more, as a deeper dive shows these delinquent student loans have some relation to graduation rates: students who exited college without a diploma have delinquency rates four times greater than students earning bachelor's degrees.

Dallas County residents face other challenges: only 16.5 percent of people who were in eighth grade in 2006 had graduated with a degree from a Texas higher education institution by 2017. Over the past decade, 63 percent of new jobs in Dallas Country expanded to occupations below $50,000 in median wages, reported the Dallas Business Journal.

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Dallas County is not alone in its inability to pay student loan debt. Nationwide, the federal student loan default rate is 11.5 percent. So, what’s a person to do with serious debt challenges? There are a few options, according to experts.

Federal student loan options: For debtholders with federal student loans, deferment or forbearance allows for a temporary stop to making loan payments or a temporary reduction to a monthly payment amount for a stated time period.

With forbearance, responsibility for paying accruing interest continues but debtholders will have their monthly loan payments either temporarily reduced or suspended due to certain financial hardships. With a deferment, you can pause your monthly payments – and on certain types of loans you won’t accrue interest.

Another option is discussing different payment alternatives with the federal loan service provider, including income-driven repayment plans. These plan types will either modify the monthly payment to a percentage of discretionary income – or a payment may not be required. Regardless, interest will continue to accrue.

Private student loan options: Talk with your private loan servicer; they might offer protections for unemployment or place payments on hold for a short period of time. Another option is refinancing the student loans for a lower interest rate with a different lender.

Missing student loan payments can have a major negative impact on your credit and finances. But the sooner you take action to correct the problem, the better off you’re likely to be.