States With the Most (and Least) Student Debt

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University of Montana
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30. Montana
> Avg. debt at graduation: $15,909
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 30.6% (19th highest)
> Median household income, ages 25-44: $57,159 (23rd lowest)
> Avg. debt as share of median household income: 27.8% (25th lowest)

In every college and university examined in Montana, more than half of all students graduate with debt. Private schools tend to be more expensive than public ones, and as a result graduates of private institutions are often more likely to incur student debt. For example, more than three-quarters of recent graduates from the University of Great Falls, a private institution, left with student debt. Meanwhile, at the University of Montana, a school where in-state tuition is roughly a quarter that of out-of-state students, only 57% of graduates amass financial debt.

Athens, Georgia
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29. Georgia
> Avg. debt at graduation: $15,947
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 29.9% (22nd highest)
> Median household income, ages 25-44: $53,215 (15th lowest)
> Avg. debt as share of median household income: 30.0% (18th highest)

The average student leaves Georgia schools with nearly $16,000 in debt, the equivalent of about two years of public tuition for in-state students. Students who attend public college or university in their home state often receive a discount on tuition. In Georgia, out-of-state students pay $16,700 more in tuition compared to in-state students tuition, one of the higher premiums of any state. However, a disproportionately large share of Georgia’s college students are state natives — 82.4% as of the fall of 2014, a higher share than in all but five states.

University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia
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28. Virginia
> Avg. debt at graduation: $16,035
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 37.0% (6th highest)
> Median household income, ages 25-44: $70,715 (10th highest)
> Avg. debt as share of median household income: 22.7% (13th lowest)

Students graduating from four-year colleges and universities in Virginia amass an average of $16,035 in debt, roughly $900 less than the debt per student nationwide. However, education in the Old Dominion State is not especially cheap. For in-state students, Virginia’s public universities cost an average of about $3,000 more a year than the $9,560 in-state tuition across the country as a whole. Out-of-state students pay an average of over $4,000 more than out-of-state students at public institutions nationwide.

Missouri
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27. Missouri
> Avg. debt at graduation: $16,206
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 27.8% (21st lowest)
> Median household income, ages 25-44: $55,694 (20th lowest)
> Avg. debt as share of median household income: 29.1% (23rd highest)

Students who come from out of state to attend public college or university typically pay more than locals from the state. The average premium nationwide for out-of-state students at a public four-year institution is $15,280. In Missouri, however, out-of-state students only pay an average premium of $11,460, and 34.4% of students come from out of state. The state’s largest institution by enrollment, the University of Missouri at Columbia, has 35,425 current students, which is more than one fifth of the state’s total four-year public university enrollment for fall 2015 of 154,616. Tuition at the University of Missouri for in-state students is about $10,700.

Corvallis, Oregon
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26. Oregon
> Avg. debt at graduation: $16,453
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.2% (15th highest)
> Median household income, ages 25-44: $60,288 (24th highest)
> Avg. debt as share of median household income: 27.3% (22nd lowest)

Over the last five years, in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in Oregon has increased by 13.8%, outpacing the 9.4% average increase nationwide. Still, a four-year public school in Oregon is a relative bargain for state residents. Tuition is $19,270 more expensive on average for out-of-state students, one of the highest premiums of any state in the country. Despite the higher cost, about 45% of college students in Oregon are from out of state, a far larger than typical share.

On average, among both in-state and out-of-state students at both public and private universities, the average debt of college recent graduates in Oregon is $16,453, roughly $500 less than is typical nationwide.