Shortly after the euphoric sense of accomplishment students feel when they graduate college, a stark reality sets in. They must soon start repaying student loans. What's worse? Many will likely be repaying their debt well into their 30s.

According to our statistics, the national student debt is now up to $1.41 trillion, and the average borrower owes over $28,000 at graduation.

In addition to having student loan debt, recent graduates face expensive housing costs, entry-level wages, and a stagnant job market once they enter the real world. For Millennials looking to jumpstart their careers, student debt, among other factors, can seriously hamper their ability to do so.

With this in mind, The Student Loan Report has put together a list of the best 250 places for graduates to repay student debt. These places are both affordable and have well-paying jobs - a great formula for successful repayment. 

The Student Loan Report’s list was determined using a unique scoring system based on four parameters which we considered integral to recent graduates plagued by student debt. The necessary data was compiled from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2,151 places in the United States were evaluated across four weighted parameters:  (1) Proportion of Millennials (20% weight);  (2) Average Cost of Rent (35% weight); (3) Average Income (35% weight);  (4) Unemployment Rate (10% weight). Once the necessary information for each city and town was recorded, we determined the total amount of points on a 100-point scale using our unique formula. The higher the score the better a city or town did.

The Student Loan Report hopes that the Best 250 Places to Pay Off Student Debt report helps Millennials throughout the United States find the best possible places to start their careers and repay their student debt.

Top 10 Places to Pay Off Student Debt

1. Ankeny, Iowa

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Ankeny takes the number one spot on our list. This Des-Moines suburb is one of the most affluent cities in all of Iowa. Major employers in the area include Deere & Company, Sysco, and Praxair. 

  • Proportion of Millennials - 24.50%
  • Average Income - $40,193
  • Average Rent - $672
  • Unemployment Rate - 3.6%

2. West Fargo, North Dakota

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West Fargo is number two on the list. Part of the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area, West Fargo is one of the fast growing cities in the state. With its close proximity to the bustling city of Fargo, there is never a shortage of fun to be had in West Fargo.

  • Proportion of Millennials - 24.93%
  • Average Income - $36,402
  • Average Rent - $653
  • Unemployment Rate - 2.2%

3. Bentonville, Arkansas

Bentonville, Arkansas

Bentonville, Arkansas rounds out the top three. Bentonville is the 10th largest city in Arkansas and the county seat of Benton County. This Arkansas community is also the global headquarters of Walmart.

  • Proportion of Millennials - 23.32%
  • Average Income - $41,749
  • Average Rent - $703
  • Unemployment Rate - 3.9%

4. Bismarck, North Dakota

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Bismarck, North Dakota ranks fourth on the list of Top 250 Places to Pay Off Student Debt. The capital of North Dakota, Bismarck serves as the economic center of both North and South Dakota. 

  • Proportion of Millennials - 21.55%
  • Average Income - $36,125
  • Average Rent - $619
  • Unemployment Rate - 2.3%

5. West Des Moines, Iowa

West Des Moines

Completing the top five is West Des Moines, Iowa. Part of the Des Moines metropolitan area, West Des Moines' biggest employers include Hy-Vee and Wells Fargo. 

  • Proportion of Millennials - 23.91%
  • Average Income - $39,461
  • Average Rent - $773
  • Unemployment Rate - 3.6%

6. Royal Oak, Michigan

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Royal Oak, Michigan assumes the number six spot in our rankings. This Detroit suburb is home to attractions like the Detroit Zoo, Royal Oak Music Theatre, and the Landmark Main Art Theatre.

  • Proportion of Millennials - 24.48%
  • Average Income - $42,229
  • Average Rent - $775
  • Unemployment Rate - 5%

7. Minot, North Dakota

Minot, North Dakota

Minot, North Dakota is number seven on our list. Minot is known as "Magic City" for its rapid growth in a short period of time. Minot is home to the Minot Air Force Base, the largest employer in the area.

  • Proportion of Millennials - 23.18%
  • Average Income - $31,853
  • Average Rent - $644
  • Unemployment Rate - 3.1%

8. Marion, Iowa

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Marion, Iowa comes in at number eight. The city of Marion grew by 33% from 2000 to 2010, making it one of the fastest growing places in the United States. Marion is located just outside of Cedar Rapids. 

  • Proportion of Millennials - 19.15%
  • Average Income - $36,371
  • Average Rent - $590
  • Unemployment Rate - 3.7%

9. Aberdeen, South Dakota

Aberdeen, South Dakota

Aberdeen, South Dakota is number nine on the Top 250 Places to Pay Off Student Debt list. The first Super 8 Motel was opened in Aberdeen and remains a large employer in the community. 

  • Proportion of Millennials - 21.63%
  • Average Income - $30,656
  • Average Rent - $495
  • Unemployment Rate - 2.7%

10. Grand Forks, North Dakota

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Grand Forks, North Dakota completes the top 10. The city is home to both the Grand Forks International Airport and the Grand Forks Air Force Base. Grand Forks is also home to the University of North Dakota.

  • Proportion of Millennials - 27.20%
  • Average Income - $30,180
  • Average Rent - $661
  • Unemployment Rate - 2.4%

Complete List of the Top 250 Places to Pay Off Student Debt



Methodology

The Student Loan Report’s list was determined using a unique scoring system based on four parameters. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics was used to complete the study. Each of the four parameters are listed below with which data was used:

1) Proportion of Millennials: To find the proportion of Millennials, we used data from the U.S. Census Bureau. We divided the total number of Millennials (which we defined as those aged 20-34) in each city and town by the total population. This parameter was given a 20% weight. 

2) Average Cost of Rent: To find the average rent in each city and town, we used the average rent cost data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This parameter was given a weight of 35%. 

3) Average Income: To find the average income for each city and town, we used the average worker earnings data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This parameter was given a weight of 35%. 

4) Unemployment Rate: To determine the unemployment rate for each city and town, we used unemployment rate data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This parameter was given a weight of 10%. 

To find the individual scores for each parameter, each city and town was given a percentile rank based on all of the data. For example, the city or town with the highest average salary was given a score of 1 while the lowest received a 0. The city or town with the median income, as compared to all cities and towns, would receive a 0.50 score. For the parameters of rent and unemployment rate, we subtracted the percentile rank from 1 since higher rent and unemployment rate is worse. 

Each percentile rank was then multiplied by 100 to give a parameter score out of 100. To take the weighting of each parameter into account, we then multiplied each parameter score by its weight. So, for example, the city or town with the lowest unemployment rate would receive 10 points (100 points x 0.10 weight). 

To find the total score, we added each town's and city's weighted parameters together. 

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