SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota may have one of the highest percentage of students with college debt but what those students owe is less than in many other states, according to Fiscal Year 2021 data from the Federal Reserve of New York.

In the final quarter of FY2021, the average student loan debt was $28,218. The median balance was $15,865.

Other states neighbors like Minnesota ($33,961), Nebraska ($31,551), North Dakota ($30,542), Iowa ($29,845) and Wyoming ($30,581) are higher.

The NY Federal Reserve lists the state’s total student loan debt at about $3.8 billion.

Shuree Mortenson, the communications director for the South Dakota Board of Regents, said the Federal Reserve of New York’s data is a standard used by many, including the BOR.

The BOR’s data shows that the average debt for public school graduates in the fall of 2020 or spring of 2021 was $24,499. The loan amount varies by campus.

According to December 2021 report by the ALCU, 73% of the state’s four-year college graduates had debt in 2020. The average debt for the 2020 graduates was $32,029. The Federal Reserve data is for all borrowers, not just recent graduates.

Studies show that more than 100,000 South Dakota borrowers would be eligible for some type of student loan forgiveness under the White House student loan plan. The plan stalled after a Texas federal judge ruled the plan unlawful.

The plan targeted forgiveness for income levels and differing amounts of debt forgiveness. For example, the U.S. Department of Education said “nearly 90% of relief dollars will go to those earning less than $75,000 a year.

Pattie Berkner is a financial advisor with Legacy Financial Partners, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Service LLC in Brookings. Berkner said borrowers should never count on a measure to happen because it may not happen.

“You have to assume it won’t happen,” Berkner said. Borrowers should continue to pay on their student loans, she said.

If the student debt program comes back, borrowers can apply but they should not plan on it happening, Berkner said.

Berkner said her financial group mostly works with those older than recent college graduates. A parent or a grandparent may ask about options on behalf of their child or grandchild, she said.

However, Berkner stressed that it’s always a good idea to reach out to a financial advisor no matter what the adult age or income.

“It’s never too early to start,” Berkner said.

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve said in May 2022 that 96% of borrowers who had education debt had student loans.

About 135,600 borrowers have student loan debt in South Dakota, according to NY Federal Reserve. Most are up-to-date on payments. The NY Federal Reserve said the delinquency rate in the state is 5.3%. The percentage applies to a borrower who has not made a payment on at least one loan in 90 days.

Although the White House plan for student debt forgiveness is stalled, borrowers had/have some options. Borrowers can apply for a forbearance which means they could stop making payments temporarily or temporarily make a smaller payment. The Federal Student Aid office of the U.S. Department of Education said borrowers may want to consider an income-driven payment because the borrower would still be paying down the debt. Interest continues to apply if a loan is in forbearance.

The same federal office also suspended loan payments, established a 0% interest rate on qualified federal loans and stopped collection on defaulted loans during COVID-19. The period ends on Dec. 31.

System-wide in the state’s public schools, 48% of the loans students receive are from federal loan programs, according to the fall FY 2022 report from the BOR. The total federal loan debt for students at BOR institutions was $131,503,999 in FY 2021.

Loans are only part of the debt for college students. The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve said in its 2022 report that of those with student debt, 19% borrowed with credit cards, 4% percent with a home equity loan, and 11% with some other form. Also, 24% of borrowers had one or more forms of education debt besides student loans for their own education.