The Federal Reserve Bank reports that there’s $1.6 trillion in outstanding student loan debt across 44 million borrowers. However, that total isn’t distributed equally among students. In fact, there are surprising geographic trends.
In the infographic below, we explore how the student debt crisis plays out in each of the 50 states. Find out which states have students with the highest levels of debt, which states have the highest percentage of borrowers, and where the highest student loan delinquency rates are. For students who are hacking college debt, you can also find out which colleges in your state have the highest and lowest debt levels.
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Student Loan Crisis: Which States Have Been Hit the Hardest?
Nationally, only a third of students graduate without student debt. Among the other two-thirds of students who take out loans to pay for school, college seniors graduate with an average of $28,650 in student debt, according to a report by The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS).
The impact of student debt isn’t evenly distributed across the states.
When considering the total amount borrowed per student, averages range from $38,510 per student in Connecticut to $18,838 in Utah. As to the number of students taking out loans to pay for college, it ranges from 74 percent in New Hampshire to 38 percent in Utah.
To understand how the student loan crisis is impacting each state, we combined the average amount of debt with the percentage of borrowers to rank the states from worst student debt impact to the lightest impact.
Note that North Dakota has been excluded from the analysis because the sample size was too small. Also, when there was a tie, the ranking prioritized states with higher average student loan debt.
Here are the results:
The data reveals that the debt load of college seniors is predominantly centralized in New England and the Midwest. These states have a higher percentage of students graduating with debt, and students are borrowing more money to attend college. Notable exceptions to this trend include South Carolina, Alabama, Montana, and Arkansas, which also have higher-than-average debt rankings.
Student Debt Delinquency
The student debt balances of graduating seniors tell one story about the geography of debt. However, the repayment of that debt tells an entirely different story.
The pervasive burden of student debt is ultimately tied to earnings and labor markets. For example, even though loan balances may be high for a graduate in metro NYC, those students may have access to high-paying jobs. Ultimately, this could mean those borrowers are less burdened by high student debt balances.
The long-term impact of student loan balances can be quantified by looking at the delinquency rates of student loan borrowers.
In an analysis by MappingStudentDebt.org, researchers looked at credit reporting data on student debt from Experian. The findings reveal that the ability to make monthly payments isn’t correlated with high student loan balances. Instead, it’s more closely in alignment with the median income.
Nationally, there’s a clear trend showing high delinquency rates across southeastern states and in the west. The trends also exist on a ZIP code level analysis where high-income ZIP codes typically have lower delinquency rates, even when loan balances are high.
For example, in metro Washington, D.C., the average loan balances are classified as “astronomical” in neighborhoods around Georgetown and Dupont Circle. However, the median income ranges from $77,000 to $107,000, and student loan delinquency rates are “extremely low.”
Based on this, it’s clear that income-based repayment plans continue to be important to managing student debt.
Average Amount of Student Debt: Highest and Lowest in Each State
The total cost of college attendance isn’t always in step with tuition rates, as financial aid programs affect how much a student will need to borrow.
Let’s take a close look at each state to understand which colleges have the highest average student loan amounts and which have the lowest. Included are figures from public and private nonprofit colleges (where data was available), including federal student loans and private student loans.
Comparing the Highest and Lowest Student Debt in Each State
- Lowest: University of West Alabama, $25,114
- Highest: University of Alabama – Birmingham, $34,872
- Lowest: University of Alaska – Fairbanks, $22,155
- Highest: University of Alaska – Anchorage, $27,188
- Lowest: Arizona State University – Tempe, $23,237
- Highest: Prescott College, $39,720
- Lowest: Henderson State University, $20,638
- Highest: Philander Smith College, $46,965
- Lowest: California State University – Fullerton, $14,965
- Highest: University of San Francisco, $48,201
- Lowest: Colorado College, $20,742
- Highest: Platt College – Aurora, $43,477
- Lowest: Central Connecticut State University, $5,831
- Highest: University of New Haven, $49,941
- Lowest: University of Delaware, $34,144
- Highest: Delaware State University, $36,812
- Lowest: Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, $7,454
- Highest: Ringling College of Art and Design, $46,575
- Lowest: University of Georgia, $23,403
- Highest: Savannah College of Art and Design, $39,022
- Lowest: University of Hawaii at Manoa, $24,233
- Highest: Hawaii Pacific University, $27,481
- Lowest: The College of Idaho, $7,202
- Highest: Northwest Nazarene University, $34,288
- Lowest: Moody Bible Institute, $15,715
- Highest: VanderCook College of Music, $42,886
- Lowest: Indiana University East, $22,392
- Highest: Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, $45,345
- Lowest: Grinnell College, $19,392
- Highest:Clarke University, $39,907
- Lowest: Bethel College – North Newton, $5,633
- Highest: Southwestern College, $39,231
- Lowest: Berea College, $7,468
- Highest: Eastern Kentucky University, $33,102
- Lowest: Southeastern Louisiana University, $20,164
- Highest: Grambling State University, $47,162
- Lowest: Bates College, $20,715
- Highest: Colby College, $34,745
- Lowest: St Mary’s College of Maryland, $21,911
- Highest: Stevenson University, $37,000
- Lowest: Fisher College, $12,724
- Highest: Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, $58,012
- Lowest: University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, $25,712
- Highest: Albion College, $44,140
- Lowest: Carleton College, $24,035
- Highest: College of Saint Benedict, $42,833
- Lowest: Blue Mountain College, $19,084
- Highest: Alcorn State University, $35,680
- Lowest: Saint Louis University, $21,292
- Highest: William Jewell College, $33,326
- Lowest: Montana State University – Billings, $26,780
- Highest: University of Great Falls, $31,642
- Lowest: Nebraska Christian College of Hope International University, $18,479
- Highest: Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health, $37,215
- Lowest: University of Nevada – Las Vegas, $21,333
- Highest: University of Nevada – Reno, $22,650
- New Hampshire:
- Lowest: Northeast Catholic College, $18,186
- Highest: Franklin Pierce University, $41,661
- New Jersey:
- Lowest: Princeton University, $9,005
- Highest: Fairleigh Dickinson University – Florham Campus, $42,122
- New Mexico:
- Lowest: New Mexico Highlands University, $19,391
- Highest: St. John’s College, $26,990
- New York:
- Lowest: CUNY Lehman College, $4,410
- Highest: New York School of Interior Design, $65,401
- North Carolina:
- Lowest: Western Carolina University, $15,669
- Highest: Chowan University, $38,443
- North Dakota:
- Lowest: Minot State University, $23,400
- Highest: Mayville State University, $31,653
- Lowest: Kenyon College, $21,404
- Highest: Xavier University, $40,868
- Lowest: Rogers State University, $16,164
- Highest: University of Tulsa, $34,869
- Lowest: Reed College, $17,467
- Highest: Pacific University, $36,001
- Lowest: Pennsylvania College of Technology, $7,218
- Highest: Washington & Jefferson College, $54,184
- Rhode Island:
- Lowest: Brown University, $25,471
- Highest: Bryant University, $52,949
- South Carolina:
- Lowest: Coker College, $20,494
- Highest: Coastal Carolina University, $37,373
- South Dakota:
- Lowest: University of South Dakota, $29,686
- Highest: Augustana University, $36,950
- Lowest: Lincoln Memorial University, $18,038
- Highest: Union University, $39,022
- Lowest: University of the Incarnate Word, $6,271
- Highest: Hardin-Simmons University, $51,346
- Lowest: Dixie State University, $12,201
- Highest: Neumont University, $39,623
- Lowest: Middlebury College, $19,382
- Highest: Saint Michael’s College, $40,009
- Lowest: University of Virginia – College at Wise, $21,389
- Highest: Roanoke College, $41,187
- Lowest: Western Washington University, $15,663
- Highest: University of Puget Sound, $34,791
- Washington, D.C.:
- Lowest: Georgetown University, $23,387
- Highest: Catholic University of America, $36,542
- West Virginia:
- Lowest: Appalachian Bible College, $15,421
- Highest: Wheeling Jesuit University, $32,428
- Lowest: Maranatha Baptist University, $21,432
- Highest: Milwaukee School of Engineering, $38,421
- Lowest: Not available
- Highest: University of Wyoming, $22,524
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