States With the Most (and Least) Student Debt

Print Email

Capitol Building in Dover, Delaware

50. Delaware
> Avg. debt at graduation: N/A
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 30.9% (19th highest)
> Median household income, ages 25-44: $65,770 (17th highest)
> Avg. debt as share of median household income: N/A

Due to a limited sample, average debt among students who graduate from college in Delaware cannot be compared to other states. For the two Delaware universities for which data is available — Delaware State University and University of Delaware — the average debt is $29,982 and $20,802 per student, respectively. By contrast, the average debt per college student nationwide is $16,929. Nearly two-thirds of students graduating from college in the state needed loans to pay for their education, one of the highest proportions compared with other states.

Downtown Salt Lake City, Utah

49. Utah
> Avg. debt at graduation: $7,527
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 31.8% (16th highest)
> Median household income, ages 25-44: $66,042 (16th highest)
> Avg. debt as share of median household income: 11.4% (2nd lowest)

The typical college or university student in Utah leaves school with about $7,500 in unpaid student loans. Nationwide, those who graduate from private institutions tend to incur more debt than those who graduate from public schools.

While the three schools with the highest average student debt in Utah are private, Brigham Young University is a notable exception. Although it is a private institution, the average debt among BYU graduates is only $4,244, by far the lowest of any school reviewed in the state. Low debt among graduates is likely due to the university’s religious affiliation. Tithes from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cover a considerable share of the school’s operating costs, and tuition for church members is roughly half the tuition for unaffiliated students.

Welcome to Wyoming

48. Wyoming
> Avg. debt at graduation: $10,434
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 26.2% (13th lowest)
> Median household income, ages 25-44: $70,384 (12th highest)
> Avg. debt as share of median household income: 14.8% (3rd lowest)

Students at the University of Wyoming leave school with an average of roughly $10,400 in debt, among the least of any major state university. In Wyoming, where the typical home with a head of household between 25 and 44 years old earns $70,384 a year, the average student loan debt is just around 15% of median annual household income. Nationwide, debt accounts for 28% of median household income of the same age group. Wyoming’s four-year public universities offer the lowest in-state tuition on average in the country.

Reno, Nevada 2

47. Nevada
> Avg. debt at graduation: $11,038
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 23.6% (7th lowest)
> Median household income, ages 25-44: $53,809 (16th lowest)
> Avg. debt as share of median household income: 20.5% (10th lowest)

Among students of the two universities reviewed in Nevada, bachelor’s degree recipients amass an average of $11,038 in debt. Average student debt is slightly higher among graduates of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas — the largest school in the state — than it is for graduates of its smaller sister school, the University of Nevada, Reno. Both universities are public, and public schools typically saddle students with less financial burden than private schools.

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA CBD skyline at night.

46. Louisiana
> Avg. debt at graduation: $11,275
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 23.2% (5th lowest)
> Median household income, ages 25-44: $51,040 (8th lowest)
> Avg. debt as share of median household income: 22.1% (12th lowest)

The average Louisiana college graduate leaves school with roughly $11,300 in loan debt, the fourth least of any state. While Louisiana’s college students accumulate nearly the least amount of debt in the country, the cost of education in the state is on the rise. The average tuition at a public four-year college in Louisiana has risen substantially since the 2011-2012 school year, from $5,588 — the second lowest in the country at the time — to $8,900 today. The 60% increase was the largest tuition hike of any state over the last five years, and is partly the result of the 2010 GRAD Act. The GRAD Act allows universities in the state to increase tuition upon meeting certain performance standards, and it has allowed some schools to more than double their undergraduate tuition. The average in-state tuition and fees at Louisiana State University, the state’s flagship school, rose from $5,233 in the 2009-2010 academic year to $10,814 for the 2016-2017 academic year.