States With the Most (and Least) Student Debt

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Total student debt in the United States, at approximately $1.26 trillion, is the second largest consumer debt in the country after mortgages. The average debt of all U.S. college undergraduates, including those who did not take any student loans, is around $16,929 per student, according to new data from student loan news website the Student Loan Report.

The amount of debt a student is likely to have after graduation varies considerably between schools — and between states. Using data from the Student Loan Report, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the average student debt burden in each state of undergraduates who graduated in the most recent school year.

Students graduating in Utah have the least debt, at an average of $7,527 per student. College students in New Hampshire lead the nation with average per-student debt at graduation of $25,740.

These are the states where college students graduate with the most debt.

Because average debt per student includes graduates who did not borrow, the actual debt burden of students who did take out loans is even higher. In Utah, the average debt of students who borrowed is $18,973 per student, second lowest in the country. In New Hampshire it is $36,101 per student, the highest in the country.

The proportion of students who graduate with loans in a state can largely affect the student debt burdens. In almost every state, a majority of undergraduates leave college with at least some debt. In 12 of the 25 states with the highest per-student debt, at least two-thirds of undergraduates leave school with student debt. In all states with low per-student debt, less than two-thirds of students leave with debt.

Looking only at students who borrowed and examining the average per-student debt in each state, the rank is closely aligned with this list. This means that not only are students in these states more likely to take loans, but also that these loans tend to be larger.

Graduates of private schools have more than 122% of the debt students who graduate from public universities and colleges have. Private postsecondary institutions outnumber public schools in 29 states, and this is more likely to be the case in states with above-average student debt per graduate.

Education advocate and research organization College Board estimates that to afford tuition, room, board, and other expenses a student must budget an average of $24,061 for in-state public colleges and $47,831 for private colleges, annually. Student loan company Sallie Mae and market research firm Ipsos conducted a study to find how families pay for college education. Most families turn to financial aid to help subsidize higher education costs. In the 2013-2014 academic year, 89% of undergraduate students received some form of financial aid.

While financial aid may help students cover a portion of education costs, generally, many sources are required to pay for the full cost. In the 2013-2014 academic year, grants and scholarships accounted for 31% of college costs. Another 30% of costs were covered by parent income and savings. Combined borrowing of students and their parents accounted for 22% of costs. The remainder came from student income and savings as well as relatives and friends.

To identify the states where college students graduate with the most student debt, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the average debt per graduate of post secondary institutions in each state from the student loan news website Student Loan Report, which collected data on 1,238 U.S. colleges and universities. The percentage of graduates with debt per school and in each state is also from this report. Cost of attendance and median alumni earnings are from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard for the 2014-2015 academic year. Cost of attendance refers to total cost of college, including tuition, room and board, and other expenses minus grants and scholarships received. Median alumni earnings are from tax returns for alumni who received financial aid 10 years after beginning their degree program. All data are from the most recent period available. The sample of graduates in Delaware is not sufficient for comparison with other states.

These are the states with the most student debt.