Town Talk | Lawrence Is The Student Debt Capital Of Kansas And Is Also High Nationally | News, Sports, Jobs
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I didn’t have a major in geography in college, but I got it right to know that KU’s decision to start his graduation ceremony on top of a hill was a boon for me: if I took it down, I could beat the admins who realized they had made a mistake.
These days, I worry what I would try to get past is student debt. University was a lot cheaper while I was in college, and student debt was less common, but it’s a big deal now. And a new study suggests there’s nowhere in Kansas that’s bigger than Lawrence.
A new study from financial services firm WalletHub has found Lawrence to be the most over-indebted city in Kansas when it comes to student debt. In other words, the average amount of student debt for residents of Lawrence does not match the median community incomes.
It’s not too surprising that Lawrence has the worst result in this category in Kansas. We are the largest university community in the state and we are full of young people. Young people are more likely to have large student debt because they have had less time to pay it off. Lawrence’s amount of money being sent to distant student debt lenders may be a downside to being such a young city, but Lawrence’s young population creates some positives that outweigh it.
The study also shows that Lawrence is not among the worst debt-distressed college towns in the country. If you are looking for a positive take out, this would be the one. The rallying cry “at least we’re not Columbia” remains intact.
But there is some disturbing news in Lawrence’s report. The first is that Lawrence is not only the most indebted city in Kansas, but rather holds that place. The second, and perhaps more interesting, concerns our income. The WalletHub study uses a measure of median income that I haven’t covered much: the median incomes of people 25 and over with at least a bachelor’s degree. This report ended up being a handy way to compare Lawrence’s income level in this category with a whole bunch of places.
Although it was practical, the results were far from beautiful. Of the 10 large Kansas communities that I monitor most often, Lawrence came last in college graduate income levels. You will have to ask yourself why. I have statistics to share.
• Lawrence numbers: Lawrence ranks in the 92nd percentile of most over-indebted cities, according to the WalletHub study. Being in the 99th percentile means you’re among the worst 1% in the country, so Lawrence is in the worst 7%. The report covered approximately 2,500 US cities. WalletHub has a real advantage in putting these reports together because it has a partnership with one of the rating agencies, TransUnion, which gives it access to the amount of student loans that exist in each city. It then compares that amount to the median income levels of college graduates with bachelor’s degrees, which is a statistic compiled by the Census Bureau.
The average amount of student debt in Lawrence was $ 23,320, while the average income of a college graduate was $ 43,943. As I mentioned, it’s worse in Kansas, but better than several other large college communities. Among those doing less well: Tallahassee, Florida; Corvallis Ore .; Oxford, Miss .; Laramie, Wyo .; Iowa City; and Columbia, Mo. All of those classified in the 96th percentile. Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Gainesville, Florida; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Tuscaloosa, Ala., all ranked in the 97th percentile. Bloomington, Ind., And Athens, Georgia, rank in the 99th percentile. Ithaca, NY, which I note because it often appears in the many lists ranking America’s best college towns. His median earnings for a college graduate are just over $ 33,000. Maybe it is considered a great college town because you would need a scholarship to live there long term.
• Big 12 numbers. It’s always interesting to see where we rank among our Big 12 counterparts. Lawrence isn’t the last, but you can see it from there. Here is an overview:
27th Percentile: Fort Worth: Debt of $ 18,198 vs. Income of $ 57,358
55th: Austin, Texas: debt of $ 21,179 vs income of $ 55,605
78th: Manhattan: $ 20,233 in debt against $ 45,303 in income
81st: Waco, Texas: $ 20,500 in debt versus $ 44,631 in income
82nd: Ames, Iowa: $ 19,001 in debt versus $ 41,084 in income
82nd: Norman, Okla: $ 21,209 debt vs. $ 45,961 in income
82nd: Lubbock, Texas: $ 22,302 in debt versus $ 48,151 in income
92nd: Lawrence: $ 23,320 in debt against $ 43,943 in income
98th: Stillwater, Okla: $ 23,448 in debt versus $ 37,466 in income
99th: Morgantown, West Virginia: debt of $ 26,267 for income of $ 40,288
Lawrence ranks fourth on the income measure alone, behind Morgantown, Stillwater and Ames.
• Kansas Debt Levels: Each month, I track sales tax data for 10 Kansas communities that typically have the largest economies in the state. So I decided to use these same 10 communities for a Kansas comparison on debt levels. Here’s a look at each community’s overuse, according to WalletHub’s analysis:
Shawnee: 20th percentile, $ 18,982 in debt
Olathe: 23rd percentile, $ 19,294 in debt
Salina: 44th percentile, $ 16,224 in debt
Lenexa: 44th percentile, $ 21,523 in debt
Overland Park: 47th percentile, $ 22,320 in debt
Wichita: 59th percentile, $ 19,158 in debt
Topeka: 68th percentile, $ 19,178 in debt
Kansas City, 77th percentile, $ 19,669 in debt
Manhattan, 78th percentile, $ 20,233 in debt
Lawrence, 92nd percentile, $ 23,320 in debt
Lawrence both had the highest amount of debt in dollar terms and also ranked in the worst percentile. However, in case you were wondering, some relatively nearby towns have done worse. They were right across the state line. Grandview, Mo., a suburb of Kansas City, ranked in the 99th percentile – one of the worst 1% in the country. Debt levels were just under $ 28,000. (Don’t hesitate to go to a Grandview Tavern and win a trivia game with that detail. Just don’t accept an IOU on the cash prize.)
• Kansas Income Levels: As I mentioned earlier, I find the income levels to be some of the most interesting parts of this report. So I took them out and filed them. As a reminder, these are the median incomes of people aged 25 and over with a bachelor’s degree:
Shawnee: $ 62,803
Olathe: $ 62,267
Overland Park: $ 61,593
Lenexa: $ 60,635
Wichita: $ 49,082
Topeka: $ 46,055
Salina: $ 45,784
Manhattan: $ 45,303
Kansas City: $ 44,112
Laurent: $ 43,943
It’s no surprise that communities in Johnson County are at the top of this list. All of these places excel at being corporate cities. Lawrence is not very good at it, and some people here are proud of it. But these numbers are a side effect. However, I thought we would be ahead of Salina and Manhattan, as the economies in that part of the state are quite different from here.
The numbers remind us that many of the issues we are talking about – think affordable housing, for example – are directly related to incomes like these.