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KERA's One Crisis Away project focuses on North Texans living on the financial edge.

North Texans Struggle More With Student Loans Than Credit Cards, Research Shows


Access to credit is how most people buy houses, pay for school or get a new car. Borrowing money and paying it back is how people participate in the economy.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas has been exploring debt trends in Dallas County. Emily Perlmeter wrote the report, and explains what she found.

Interview Highlights

What Dallas County residents’ credit looks like: “A little over half of Dallas County residents have what is considered ‘prime credit.’ The range that we are using, which is from Equifax, is a credit score of 680 and above for ‘prime credit.’”

  • Near prime credit (score of 620-679): 16.4% of Dallas County borrowers
  • Subprime credit (score of 550-619): 14.8% of Dallas County borrowers
  • Deep subprime credit (score below 550): 15.1% of Dallas County borrowers

Why student loan borrowers are struggling: “Serious delinquencies for student loans are actually on the rise and they have been since about 2012. Rather than the typical model of going to a lender, the lender takes a look at your credit score and then determines how much debt you’re eligible for and what the price of that debt is; in the student loan market, everything goes through the federal government.

"So Congress sets interest rates and the borrowing limits and every student, regardless of their credit background, is offered the same amount and the same price of debt. Tuition rates have been skyrocketing — that’s another component. And then, the final thing to note is that it’s actually very hard to get student loan debt off of your credit record, even through declaring bankruptcy.”

What credit trends in Dallas County are positive: “It’s great that mortgage delinquencies have really tapered off. We are seeing that average balances of mortgages are going up, and they may continue to increase considering that home prices in the D-FW area seem to be on the rise. It’s a great sign that credit cards are becoming less of a burden for consumers. That rate of being 90-plus days past due has fallen quite a bit.”

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.