Special Report

Ten States With the Most Student Debt

4. Minnesota
> Class of 2012 average debt: $31,497
> Class of 2012 pct. with debt: 70% (tied-4th highest)
> Median earnings with bachelor’s degree: $50,065 (14th highest)
> Avg. total debt: $66,595 (16th highest)

Minnesota had one of the most well-educated populations in the nation as of 2012. More than 92% of the state’s population aged 25 and over had at least a high school diploma, one of the highest rates in the U.S., while roughly a third of adults had at least a bachelor’s degree, also among the highest figures nationwide. Yet in order to pursue an education, many of the graduates from Minnesota schools had to take out large amounts of debt. Seventy percent of the class of 2012 graduated with student loans, among the highest rates in the nation. Student debt totals rose by 61% between 2004 and 2012, from an average of $19,580 to an average of $31,497.

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3. Pennsylvania
> Class of 2012 average debt: $31,675
> Class of 2012 pct. with debt: 70% (tied-4th highest)
> Median earnings with bachelor’s degree: $48,200 (17th highest)
> Avg. total debt: $58,026 (22nd lowest)

Like many states on this list, Pennsylvania’s average total debt level was below the national average. An average student loan, on the other hand, far exceeded the national average of $29,400. Student debt has increased dramatically, ballooning 62% between 2004 and 2012. High average student debt, and low median earnings for residents with bachelor’s degrees may discourage recent graduates from taking on other forms of debt. Average debt for all types of loans was just $58,026, lower than most other states. With an unemployment rate above the national average, and particularly high jobless rates among recent college graduates, former students may find it difficult to stay in the state after graduation. If students decide to remain in-state and repay their student loans, Pennsylvania’s economy could feel the pinch as graduates allocate money to repayment rather than consumption

2. New Hampshire
> Class of 2012 average debt: $32,698
> Class of 2012 pct. with debt: 74% (2nd highest)
> Median earnings with bachelor’s degree: $50,525 (13th highest)
> Avg. total debt: $53,818 (15th lowest)

While graduates from New Hampshire’s higher education institutions faced the second highest debt levels in 2012, the state’s economy may be well-suited to help students shrug off their debt burden. Nearly 35% of the population 25 and older had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2012, one of the higher figures in the country. Moreover, median income of those with a four-year degree was above the national median. In addition, the state had one of the lower unemployment rates among 20-24 year olds in the country, as well as strong recent job growth, both of which indicate that recent college graduates who remain in New Hampshire are likely to find quality jobs. Additionally, the state had the third lowest default rate among those with student debt, likely due to the availability of jobs and high incomes.

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1. Delaware
> Class of 2012 average debt: $33,649
> Class of 2012 pct. with debt: 56% (19th lowest)
> Median earnings with bachelor’s degree: $49,550 (15th highest)
> Avg. total debt: $71,294 (12th highest)

Graduates from colleges and universities in Delaware began their careers with the highest debt burden in the country in 2012. Student debt increased 128% between 2004 and 2012, more than in any other state during that time. Moreover, the proportion of students who took on student loans had risen 11 percentage points over that time, the largest such increase in the country. Above-average job growth has helped keep the general unemployment rate low in Delaware. However, the unemployment rate among 20 to 24 year olds, which includes recent college graduates, was 15.6% in 2013, one of the highest nationwide. Further, Delaware’s total debt level of more than $71,000 per capita was one of the higher debt burdens in the country. With median earnings for those with a bachelor’s degree trailing behind the national average, graduates may find monthly loan repayments difficult.