Student Loan Debt by State – A Complete Rundown

17.10.2021
Milena

In 2020, the total US student debt surpassed $1.57 trillion. Americans are the nation with the highest college debt in the world, with the trend of growing student debt balances showing no signs of slowing down. Do you know the stats on student loan debt by state though? Can you guess what states have the highest average and total college loan debt? In this full overview of the total student loan debt in the US by state, we will answer all those questions and more.

Student Loan Debt by State

Americans owe over $1.57 trillion in college debt, according to the latest student loan debt statistics. Still, college balances are not an issue for all states. Below, we’ll go over the current student loan debt of each state.

States With the Lowest Total Student Loan Debt

States With the Lowest Total Student Loan Debt

With $1.6 billion each, Wisconsin and Wyoming are the states with the lowest total college debt in the nation. Other jurisdictions with a low total student loan debt by state include Alaska, North Dakota, and Vermont. Still, these are all small states with under one million residents. So, it makes sense that they won’t have as high total student loan debt as more heavily populated states.

States With the Highest Total Student Loan Debt

States With the Highest Total Student Loan Debt

California has the highest student loan debt by state with over $138 billion. That amount is nearly $27 billion higher than the $111.3 billion Texans owe in student loans. These two are the only states whose student loan debt total is over $100 billion. Student debt statistics show that other states with heavily indebted graduates are Florida, New York, and Georgia.

The below table shows the total student loan debt in all states, along with their ranking in ascending order.

Total Student Loan Debt by State

Average Student Loan Debt per Person by State

You already know that Wyoming has the lowest student loan debt by state while California has the highest. Now, let’s analyze the average amount of student loan debt per borrower in each state.

Before diving deeper into each jurisdiction, however, it’s vital to understand America’s averages first. The average student loan debt in the country was $36,406 in 2021. This amount also varies depending on the type of college and degree. The average student loan debt for doctors, for instance, hovers around $200,000.

When it comes to student loan debt by race, white Americans paid off their balances the fastest. About 34% of adults aged 18-29 carry college debt. Stats on the average student loan debt by age indicate that this is the age group that most struggles with college loan balances.

These are some of the most surprising facts about the average student loan debt in America. Now, let’s learn the averages about every state.

States With the Lowest Average Student Debt per Borrower

  • North Dakota – $29,200
  • Iowa – $30,500
  • Wyoming – $31,000
  • South Dakota – $31,100
  • Oklahoma – $31,500
  • Wisconsin – $31,800
  • West Virginia – $31,800
  • Rhode Island – $31,800
  • Nebraska – $32,100
  • Utah – $32,200

Utah residents owe the least in average college debt per person. The average college loan balance in North Dakota is $29,200, or nearly twice less than the national average student loan debt. New Mexico, Nevada, Florida, and Wyoming are some other destinations with low average college debt by state.

States With the Highest Average Student Debt per Borrower

  • District of Columbia – $55,400
  • Maryland – $42,700
  • Georgia – $41,500
  • Florida – $39,700
  • Virginia – $39,000
  • South Carolina – $38,300
  • New York – $37,800
  • Illinois – $37,600
  • North Carolina – $37,500
  • Alabama – $37,100

District of Columbia has the highest student loan debt average by state in the USA. The state’s average of $55,400 per borrower is some $20,000 higher than the national average. 

Note that the average student loan debt in California is $36,400. While the destination has the highest total student loan debt by state, its average debt isn’t among the worst 10.

The below table shows the average student loan debt per borrower per state, along with their ranking in ascending order.

Average Student Loan Debt per Borrower by State

Percentage of Students With Student Debt

The student loan debt by year keeps growing, and more Americans struggle with it. About 15% of the adult population in the country, in fact, still carries college balances. In the previous table, we analyzed the median student loan debt by state. In this section, let’s see what percentage of state graduates still owe money for their college education. The average share of people with student debt among the 50 states plus D.C. in 2019 was 57.25%.

States With the Lowest Percentage of Graduates With College Debt

  • Utah – 32%
  • Oregon – 36%
  • Hawaii – 43%
  • Indiana – 43%
  • California – 44%
  • Alaska – 45%
  • Florida – 46%
  • Wyoming – 46%
  • Oklahoma – 47%
  • Alabama – 47%

Besides being the state with the lowest average college debt, Utah is also the state with the lowest percentage of indebted graduates. Only 32% of graduates in Utah carry student loan balances, which is much lower than the US average of over 57%. Other jurisdictions where not many graduates owe money to their Alma Mater are Oregon, Hawaii, and Indiana. Wyoming, the destination with the lowest student loan debt by state, is also on this list.

States With the Highest Percentage of Graduates With College Debt

  • Maine – 90%
  • New Hampshire – 81%
  • Connecticut – 80%
  • Tennessee – 75%
  • South Carolina – 74%
  • South Dakota – 73%
  • Minnesota – 72%
  • Wisconsin – 72%
  • Rhode Island – 65%
  • North Dakota – 65%

Next, we have the US states where most graduates have student loans to pay off. Here, Maine is the absolute leader, with 90% of its graduates carrying college debt. New Hampshire and Connecticut also have high percentages of people with student loans 81% and 80% of indebted graduates. Connecticut also has the highest average student loan debt by state. Meaning, this is one of the states where residents struggle the most with college debt.

Best and Worst Percentage Change in Student Loan Debt by State

The total student loan debt by year of each state continually changes, just like the percentage of graduates that carry such debt. In this section, we will analyze the states whose share of indebted students decreased and grew the most.

Utah, the destination with the lowest percentage of graduates with student loan debt by state, noted the most impressive change. Its share of residents with college debt dropped by 15.75% between 2018 and 2019. Louisiana (-13.21%), D.C. (-11.50%), and Arkansas (-10.43%) are some other states whose percentage of graduates with student debt fell by over 10%.

Alaska is the state whose share of residents with college loan balances jumped the most (25.71%). Still, Alaska isn’t among the top 10 states with the highest percentage of indebted students. Other states with a significant increase in students with college debt between 2018 and 2019 are North Dakota (24.12%) and Maine (16.42%). You will recognize Maine as the destination with the highest share of people with student loan debt by state.

The below table shows the percentage of graduates with student debt in all states, along with percentage changes from 2018 and their ranking in ascending order.

Percentage of Graduates with Student Loan Debt by State

Average Student Loan Debt – Blue vs. Red States

Republican states have a generally lower average student loan debt by state. Their average stands at $27,902, whereas the average of blue states is $30,447. Red states, moreover, dominate the list of ten jurisdictions with the lowest average college debt. In the best states for average student loan balances, seven are Republican and only three are Democrat. The situation is opposite among the 10 worst states, where seven jurisdictions are blue.

All these figures are surprising because red states are among the most federally dependent US states. So, one would expect those destinations to struggle with student debt more, as well. When we focus on the total debt, however, things differ. Here, there’s an equal number of red and blue states among the best 10 destinations. Among the worst states, six out of 10 are Republican.

The Takeaway

College debt remains a serious issue for American students and graduates. Not every state, however, struggles with student loan balances the same. The student loan debt by state, in fact, drastically varies. Wyoming graduates owe a total of $1.6 billion, while Californians carry over $138 billion in student loan debt total balances. The highest student loan debt per borrower of over $55,000 was recorded in the District of Columbia. Finally, Maine is the state where 90% of graduates have college debt.

References: Lendedu, Debt, Experian, Education Data, Education Data

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