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College Students and Recent Grads

America’s Biggest Millennial Boomtowns

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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In August, we published our study of America’s biggest boomtowns. It looked at three categories of data — industry growth, population and housing changes and workforce opportunities. As a follow-up to our study, we are providing a look at the top 50 metro areas that are attracting millennials and helping them prosper.

Using four metrics (millennial population change, workforce participation, unemployment rate and median wages), we scored the top 50 cities. A 100 was the highest possible score.

Here is a look at our findings.

Hover over a metro in the map below to see how it performed between 2011 and 2016.

Key findings

  • San Francisco topped our list of millennial boomtowns with a final score of 89, thanks to top growth in the millennial labor force, wages and overall population.
  • Denver and Austin, Texas, come in second and third, with scores of 80.6 and 80. The two cities saw notable millennial population growth and dropping unemployment rates.
  • All but two of the top 10 metros lie west of the Mississippi River. Four are on the West Coast and two are in Texas.
  • Virginia Beach came last on our list, mostly due to its shrinking millennial labor force and lackluster unemployment numbers. It had a final score of 9.7.
  • Providence, R.I., and Philadelphia rounded out the bottom three with scores of 13.3 and 21.7, respectively. Providence actually lost almost 3% of its millennial population, and wages for millennials in Philly only rose by 2.4%.
  • Oklahoma City saw the biggest wage increase: Millennials in 2016 enjoyed 33.6% more in median earnings than they did in 2011, although that still leaves them behind 32 other metro areas in terms of absolute dollars.
  • Unemployment among millennials was nearly cut in half in Nashville, where the rate dropped from 10.3% to 5.3% (a 48.1% change).

The scope of our research

Using the Pew Research Center’s definition of millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) means that a portion of millennials would have been minors or pursuing an education or job training in 2011. To avoid including the working statistics of high schoolers, we limited this study to people born between 1981 and 1991, meaning people who would be between the approximate ages of 20 and 30 years old in 2011.

Even with that restriction, it’s important to remember that in general, people enjoy better employment opportunities and see higher wages as they gain experience, skills and workplace sophistication. Also, more people enter the workforce as they complete their educations, which often happens in their early 20s. Therefore, at least some of the increases in workforce participation and earnings are due to the natural age progression of this cohort.

Even so, we find that the millennial population is growing – and prospering – more in some places than in others. Millennials who live in the metros at the bottom of our list may be at risk for accruing more debt and less wealth over their lifetimes, thanks to opportunity losses. Those who move to the cities at the top of the list may find that they’re better equipped to pay down debt and gain assets at a faster rate as they gain toeholds in more lucrative job paths.

The elements of a millennial boomtown

More millennials

We tracked the five-year (2011-2016) population changes of those born between 1981 and 1991. Interestingly, millennial populations actually decreased in nine of the 50 metros we analyzed, which demonstrates that many millennials are actively migrating.

Labor force participation

It’s a truism in economics that when local working conditions and opportunities improve, many people who don’t participate in the workforce will decide that it’s a good time to pursue outside employment. Therefore, we wanted to see not just the change in overall population, but the change in the number of people who work or are actively seeking work. The size of the labor force generally increased, even in places where the millennial population shrank, except in Providence and Virginia Beach.

Unemployment

How much has the unemployment rate declined for millennials over that five-year period? Unemployment for the nation as a whole has dropped significantly since 2011, but there’s a big difference between the 19.6% drop for millennials in Las Vegas and the 48.1% drop in Nashville.

Median wages

We calculated the change in median wages for those born between 1981 and 1996. As discussed above, we would expect wages to go up for this group, generally, simply because they aged and gained worked experience during the intervening years. However, we found that median wages actually dropped a smidge in Richmond, Va., and Washington, D.C.

The biggest millennial boomtowns

1. San Francisco

Final score: 89.0
Housing is a struggle in San Francisco, but that isn’t deterring millennials. While the overall population of millennials increased by 16.2%, the millennial workforce jumped by 31.1%. To put that into context, the workforce increase represents about 5,000 more people than the population increase. That could be because so many people in the Bay Area have secondary and advanced degrees, meaning they may not have entered the workforce until they were well into their 20s, or may have dipped out of the workforce to further their education.

The unemployment rate for millennials dropped 40.3%, which is fairly impressive. That still only put San Francisco at No. 15 for highest unemployment rate drop among millennials. Fourteen other metros had bigger drops, including Detroit (42.9%), Minneapolis (44.4%), and Columbus, Ohio (45.7%).

But for millennials who are working, median wages have skyrocketed 32.4%, to $40,304. That’s the second highest wage on our list after neighboring city San Jose, and the second largest wage increase after Oklahoma City.

2. Denver

Final score: 80.6
Denver boasts the biggest increase of the millennial population between 2011 and 2016, at 18.7%.

Its 27.9% increase in labor force is second to San Francisco. But about 13,000 of the new arrivals aren’t working or are looking for work. That may be because despite the second sharpest drop in millennial unemployment (46.3%), median millennial wages have only increased 13.1%, to $32,243. That increase is the 15th smallest jump on our list.

3. Austin, Texas

Final score: 80.0
Austin has changed immensely in recent years. It has seen a population explosion over the last few years, and millennials were certainly part of that burst. Their numbers increased by 17.5%, the second biggest gain on our list behind Denver.

Despite an impressive workforce gain of 22.6% (5th highest), more millennials simply moved to Austin over joining the workforce. However, that’s not surprising for a major university town with extensive graduate and undergraduate programs.

Further, unemployment dropped 45.1% for millennials — the fourth biggest decline on our list — and median wages increased 21.7%, to $30,228.

4. Nashville, Tenn.

Final score: 76.4
Nashville seems eager for new millennial employees, as demonstrated by the biggest drop in unemployment of any metro on our list (48.1%). The city also has the 6th lowest millennial unemployment rate (5.3%). Overall, the millennial population increased by 11.4% (9th highest), and the labor force rose by 16.7% (15th highest).

Although Nashville also saw the third highest median wage increase (30.4%), that still only increased median wages up to $29,220. That median wage puts Nashville in the middle of the pack in terms of absolute dollars.

5. San Jose, Calif.

Final score: 74.7
The seat of Silicon Valley is the first place on our list where more millennials entered the labor force than actually moving into the metro. The millennial population increased by 13.3%, and 27.5% more are working or looking for work. That comes out to a difference about 4,000 people.

That’s somewhat surprising considering the relatively mediocre millennial unemployment rate of 6.7% (18th lowest) and comparatively modest median earnings increase of 25.9% (10th highest on the list). Of course, millennials in this city see the highest earnings of any metro on our list, with a median wage of $42,319.

The most sluggish cities for millennials

50. Virginia Beach, Va.

Final score: 9.7
Virginia Beach came in last on our list by performing dismally across all four metrics. The metro did enjoy a small bump (3.2%) of millennials between 2011 and 2016, but 2% fewer millennials were engaged in the labor force, the worst showing on our list. That could be because while the 7% unemployment rate isn’t the highest on our list (Riverside, Calif., takes home that honor), the 20.3% reduction was actually the smallest across the 50 metros.

Median wages for millennials have only increased 6.6%, which is 7th lowest among metros we reviewed, to $28,212. That median is distinctly middle of the pack, but the growth rate suggests there may be wage stagnation, as we would expect this age group to see wage gains just by moving from entry-level to more experienced levels over that five-year period.

49. Providence, R.I.

Final score: 13.3
Providence saw its millennial population drop by 2.8%. Part of this may be attributed to the fact that Providence is a college town. Thus, this drop may represent millennial students who have moved on after completing their undergraduate and graduate degrees. However, we did find that this metro area had one of the smallest population increases in our previous study.

Similarly, the millennial labor force shrank by 0.3%. The high millennial unemployment rate of 8.5% (8th worst) may have something to do with that, along with the 11th lowest income increase (9.9%).

48. Philadelphia

Final score: 21.7
Perhaps it’s no surprise that the millennial population of Philly only increased by 0.7%. Unemployment for that age group is 8.8% and median earnings only increased by 2.4%. That earnings increase represents a paltry five-year cost of living raise for most people.

The millennial workforce did rise by 10.6% during that period, however. It seems that local residents are picking up whatever new jobs are becoming available.

47. Richmond, Va.

Final score: 26.3
Richmond has the ignominy of the worst wage change for millennials. Median earnings went down by 2.1%. Washington, D.C., was the only other metro to see a negative earnings change, at 1%, but still managed to rank 18th overall, thanks to strong showings in other categories.

Although Richmond has a respectable millennial unemployment rate of 7.6%, an unemployment decrease of 32.3% was 12th lowest on our list and thus didn’t earn many points. A workforce increase of 12.4% was dead center of the pack, and the millennial population growth of 3.9% ranked 32 out of 50.

46. St. Louis

Final score: 26.8
St. Louis saw its millennial population shrink by 1.1%. Workforce participation was up by 6% (40th out of 50), but some or all that can probably be attributed to young adults entering the workforce after school or training, rather than attractive economic conditions.

Even though median earnings in 2016 were the 16th highest at $30,228, the earnings increase of 14.2% ranked 33rd highest on the list of 50. Despite these findings, a March 2018 study we conducted found that St. Louis was one of the best places for working women.

Top 5 and bottom 5 cities in each metric

Top 50 metro areas in the U.S.

Methodology

Using data from the U.S. Census American Community Survey, hosted on American FactFinder and by IPUMS USA, we tracked the five-year change between 2011 and 2016 (the last year for which all data was available) for those born between 1981 and 1991. This represents a subset of millennials, who are generally defined as those born between 1981 and 1996 (the reason for limiting the population to this subset is described above). These millennials would have been between the approximate ages of 20 and 30 in 2011 and 25 and 35 in 2016.

We limited the review to the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas (“MSAs”) due to limited data availability.

The analyzed metrics were:

  • Population data included the age groupings of 20-24 and 25-29 for 2011; and 25-29 and 30-34 for 2016.
  • Labor force data included the age groupings of 20-21, 22-24 and 25-29 for 2011; and 25-29 and 30-34 for 2016.
  • Employment data included the age groupings of 20-21, 22-24 and 25-29 for 2011; and 25-29 and 30-34 for 2016.
  • Median wage data is for those born between 1981 and 1991.

Because the U.S. Census has changed the boundaries of some MSAs in the intervening years, we collected the data from FactFinder at the county level and then mapped it to the current MSA borders.

Each data series was scored relative to the other metros so that the biggest positive change received a score of 100 and any 0 or negative changes received a score of 0 (except for unemployment rate, where this was reversed). The highest possible score for each metric was 100 and the lowest was 0. The four metric scores were then summed and divided by four for a final score. The highest possible final score was 100 and the lowest was 0.

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Kali McFadden is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kali at [email protected]

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How To Know If Your Student Loans Are Private or Federal

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

How To Tell If Your Student Loans Are Private or Federal

When you borrowed money to pay for college, you may not have paid much attention to the difference between federal and private student loans. You might not know who your student loan servicer is, or if you do, you may wonder for example whether that loan listed under Nelnet is federal or private.

In fact, it’s completely reasonable to ask why the difference between private and federal student loans matters in the first place.

There are a few ways to see if your student loans are private or federal — here’s how, along with what makes each different, and why knowing which type of loan you have is important.

What makes federal and private student loans different?

Federal student loans are offered through the Department of Education. Typically, these loans are easy to qualify for. For many federal student loans, your credit isn’t even checked.

There are four different federal student loan programs currently available:

  • Direct subsidized loans: These loans are awarded based on your financial need. When you apply for federal financial aid, your eligibility for subsidized loans is also considered. “Subsidized” here means that interest isn’t charged until after you graduate or drop below half time.
  • Directed unsubsidized loans: Anyone can receive an unsubsidized loan — they aren’t based on need. However, unsubsidized loans will put you on the hook for interest charges that accrue while you’re in school.
  • Direct PLUS loans: These loans are specifically for graduate students or for parents of undergraduate students taking out loans on behalf of their child. These loans aren’t based on financial need, and a credit check is required.
  • Direct consolidation loans: This type of loan allows you to combine all your federal student loans into one, giving you one manageable payment each month rather than many. Your new interest rate is the weighted average of all your loans, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of a percent.

Private student loans, on the other hand, are offered by private lenders and have different repayment requirements compared with federal student loans. For example, private student loans can offer fixed or variable interest rates, while federal student loans only offer fixed rates.

Because the features of private loans vary from lender to lender, eligibility will depend on the bank, credit union or online financial institution that you borrow from.

Most borrowers usually favor federal student loans, given the flexible repayment options and debt-forgiveness programs they come with. But since federal loans also have borrowing limits, students may need to turn to private loans to help fund any remaining costs, and in a few cases, a private loan might have a better interest rate than their federal equivalent.

How to determine if your loans are federal

The first thing you should do to see if you have federal loans is log on to the National Student Loan Data System. The only loans listed here are federal.

If you’ve never used the NSLDS before, you’ll want to click the “Financial Aid Review” button on the homepage, hit “Accept,” and then enter your credentials.

If you have a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID, you can enter it here. If not, there’s an option to create one. In May 2015, the government redesigned its student loan system, and you can now use your FSA ID to log on to multiple government sites. But if you haven’t visited in a while, you might need to create one.

In the event you forgot your credentials, you can click the “Forgot my username/password” button and have the information emailed to you or answer a challenge question. You’ll just be required to enter your Social Security number, last name and date of birth.

Once you log on, you’ll see a list of all the student loans that were disbursed to you. This page will also show you what your original loan amount was, and how much you currently owe.

Click on the numbered box to the left of your loan to determine your loan servicer. This will display all the information about that particular loan. Your loan servicer will be listed under the “Servicer/Lender/Guaranty Agency/ED Servicer Information” section. The name, address, phone number and website should all be displayed.

Additionally, this page will also inform you of your loan terms. Along with your original loan balance and current outstanding balance, it will tell you what the interest rate is and the current status of the loan.

How to determine if your student loan is private

As discussed, private student loans are loans not made by the government — banking institutions, such as Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo, Citizens Bank and others offer them. As a result, there are more lenders to look out for when it comes to private loans.

Unfortunately, there’s no central reporting system for private loans like there is for federal loans, which makes them slightly more tricky to track down.

Your first stop should still be the NSLDS to at least see if you have any federal loans. In 2015, just 5% of undergraduate borrowers had private student loans, so your student loans are more likely to be federal than private.

But in order to make sure you have no outstanding private student debt, you’ll want to take a look at your credit report. You can view your reports from the three main credit bureaus for free by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.

Some lenders may not look familiar to you. Searching the lender’s name online may help you find out who the parent company is. Don’t hesitate to call the numbers available on your credit report if you’re still unsure.

If you graduated a while ago, some older loans may look unfamiliar. You might see “federal direct loan,” “federal Perkins,” or “Stafford” on your report — these are federal loans, so ensure they match up with what’s in your NSLDS file.

You might also be able to call your school’s financial aid office to see if they have records of your loans.

What should you do once you find out?

Knowing whether your student loans are private or federal can be important as you repay you college debt.

For example, knowing the difference is crucial if you ever decide to refinance or consolidate your student loans. You can only combine your debt under a direct consolidation loan if you have federal loans. Likewise, refinancing through a private lender will cause you to lose access to federal repayment and forgiveness programs, while private loans would be unaffected.

So, by knowing which type of student loans you have, you’ll get a better idea of what options you have to knock them off.

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Dori Zinn contributed to this report.

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5 Reasons You Might Be Denied for a Private Student Loan

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When you’re applying for money to pay for college, experts agree that federal loans are usually the best way to go. They’re less expensive (especially for undergraduates) and more flexible than private student loans.

But if you need more money than you’re being offered in federal aid, a private student loan from a bank or other lender may be your best option to fill the gap. In the most recent numbers on private student loan borrowers, 43% turned to private lenders because they could not borrow any more in federal Stafford loans, according to the Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS).

But if you’re thinking of applying for a private loan, you should know that getting approved isn’t a slam-dunk.

“Lenders are focusing their money on the borrower who is least likely to default and most likely to be profitable,” said Mark Kantrowitz, financial aid expert and publisher of Savingforcollege.com. As a result, applicants who seem even a little risky might find themselves rejected for a private student loan.

Here are five reasons you might be denied for a private student loan:

1. Your credit isn’t good enough

Many undergraduate students — and some graduate students — don’t have a robust enough credit history to qualify for a private student loan. Or, if they do, their score might be too low.

Can you get a private student loan with bad credit? Possibly, but you might need a cosigner on a private loan application to get it approved. “About 90% of our private education loans are co-signed,” said Rick Castellano, a spokesperson for Sallie Mae.

Note, however, that using a cosigner can also cause problems of its own.

2. You’ve borrowed a lot recently

The Department of Education, guaranty agencies and other federal student lenders report your loans to the credit bureaus, as do most private lenders. As a result, future lenders are able to easily see how much money you’re borrowing and what your total debt load looks like.

Your debt-to-income ratio ideally needs to be 40% or less, though standards range from lender to lender. If you have a lot of debt and not much income, you’re a riskier bet, leading private lenders to reject your loan request.

3. You’re going into the ‘wrong’ field

“If you’re applying for private aid for a degree in a field that pays well, like a medical degree or in the sciences, and you’ve got a reasonably good credit background, you’re getting approved,” Kantrowitz said. On the other hand, if you’re pursuing a degree in a field that traditionally pays poorly — thus making it harder for you to repay a loan later — it’s a tougher call.

Keep in mind that your future earnings will also play into your likelihood of getting approved for student loan refinancing after you graduate. We definitely aren’t telling you to avoid pursuing your dreams, just to be careful about your debt burden if you’re entering a historically low-paying field.

4. You’re asking for too much

It could be that the private lender thinks your loan request is too high. “To ensure applicants borrow only what they need to cover their school’s cost of attendance, we actively engage with schools and require school certification before we disburse a private education loan,” Castellano said.

In this case, you might not get rejected, but the school might certify a lesser amount.

Also be aware that you can sometimes get approved for more than you actually need. If that’s the case, you probably shouldn’t use those extra student loan funds to cover the cost of decorating your dorm, grabbing coffee after class or bar hopping. The cost of using student loans to cover living expenses can take a heavy toll down the road.

5. You’re a freshman

If you’re only a year or two away from graduating, you’re more likely to get approved than if you still have four years of undergraduate schooling ahead of you. This is because, as Kantrowitz explained, “there’s less risk of you dropping out.”

Graduate students may also have an easier time getting a private student loan because they’re more of a known quantity — they even started to pay down debt and established themselves as less of a risk.

Why you might be denied for a private student loan (and what to do instead)

In all circumstances, experts feel you should weigh the costs and benefits of private loans carefully — and whether you need them at all. For one thing, 45% of private loan borrowers borrowed less than they could have in federal loans, according to TICAS. So make sure you’ve exhausted your federal loan opportunities before heading this way.

Private student loans can be harder to get than federal ones because they’re credit-dependent. Everything from existing debt and credit scores to how far you are into your education will play a role in whether or not your application is accepted.

But getting denied for a private student loan doesn’t mean that you’re out of luck when it comes to funding college. There are many other options, from racking up scholarships to finding a tuition-free school. You could even start with a low-cost or no-cost community college and then try to build your credit to qualify for a private student loan later on when you transfer to a four-year university.

Devon Delfino contributed to this report.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Kate Ashford is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kate at [email protected]

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