Student Loan Debt by State – A Complete Rundown

17.03.2021
Milena

In 2021, the total US student debt surpassed $1.4 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 $1.4 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.

The Top 10 States With the Lowest Total Student Loan Debt

With $1.5 billion, Wyoming is the state 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.

  • Wyoming – $1.5 billion
  • Alaska – $2.1 billion
  • North Dakota – $2.3 billion
  • Vermont – $2.6 billion
  • South Dakota – $3.3 billion
  • Montana – $3.8 billion
  • Delaware – $4.1 billion
  • Hawaii – $4.1 billion
  • Rhode Island – $4.1 billion
  • Maine – $5.6 billion

The Top 10 States With the Highest Total Student Loan Debt

California has the highest student loan debt by state with over $131 billion. That amount is nearly $30 billion higher than the $103 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.

  • California – $131.2 billion
  • Texas – $103 billion
  • Florida – $87.2 billion
  • New York – $85.3 billion
  • Georgia – $60 billion
  • Pennsylvania – $58.7 billion
  • Ohio – $57.4 billion
  • Illinois – $56.5 billion
  • Michigan – $47.2 billion
  • North Carolina – $42.7 billion

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

StateTotal Student Loan 2019 in Billions $Total Student Loan 2019 in Billions $ Ranking Lowest to Highest
Alabama20.728
Alaska2.12
Arizona27.536
Arkansas11.520
California131.251
Colorado25.933
Connecticut15.424
D.C.6.112
Delaware4.18
Florida87.249
Georgia6047
Hawaii4.17
Idaho6.413
Illinois56.544
Indiana27.535
Iowa12.421
Kansas11.519
Kentucky17.825
Louisiana19.627
Maine5.610
Maryland32.139
Massachusetts28.238
Michigan47.243
Minnesota24.731
Mississippi14.423
Missouri27.134
Montana3.86
Nebraska7.316
Nevada10.118
New Hampshire5.911
New Jersey37.640
New Mexico715
New York85.348
North Carolina42.742
North Dakota2.33
Ohio57.445
Oklahoma13.822
Oregon18.526
Pennsylvania58.746
Rhode Island4.19
South Carolina24.430
South Dakota3.35
Tennessee27.837
Texas10350
Utah8.917
Vermont2.64
Virginia3841
Washington25.332
West Virginia6.614
Wisconsin21.529
Wyoming1.51

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 $35,359 in 2019, while the total debt grew by $2,858 every second. This amount also varies depending on the type of college and degree. The average student loan debt for doctors, for instance, is about $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.

The Top 10 States With the Lowest Average Student Debt per Borrower

Utah residents owe the least in average college debt per person. The average college loan balance in Utah is $16,633, or nearly twice less than the national average student loan debt. Utah is also the only state whose average college balances are under $20,000. New Mexico, Nevada, Florida, and Wyoming are some other destinations with low average college debt by state.

  • Utah – $16,633
  • New Mexico – $20,497
  • Nevada – $22,418
  • Florida – $22,953
  • Wyoming – $23,444
  • Arkansas – $23,798
  • Louisiana – $23,855
  • Hawaii – $23,914
  • Nebraska – $24,266
  • Texas – $24,655

The Top 10 States With the Highest Average Student Debt per Borrower

Connecticut has the highest student loan debt average by state in the USA. The state’s average of $41,579 per borrower is nearly $6,000 higher than the national average. Alongside New Hampshire, Connecticut is the only state with an average amount of student debt of over $40,000.

Note that the average student loan debt in California is $25,112. While the destination has the highest total student loan debt by state, its average debt isn’t among the worst 10.

  • Connecticut – $41,579
  • New Hampshire – $41,511
  • Pennsylvania – $38,521
  • Delaware – $37,447
  • Maine – $36,339
  • Rhode Island – $36,121
  • North Dakota – $33,318
  • Minnesota – $33,168
  • Maryland – $32,165
  • South Carolina – $31,902

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

StateAverage Student Debt per BorrowerAverage Student Debt per Borrower Ranking from Lowest to Highest
Alabama31,17436
Alaska27,85222
Arizona24,70911
Arkansas23,7986
California25,11212
Colorado26,11115
Connecticut41,57951
D.C.30,11832
Delaware37,44748
Florida22,9534
Georgia29,78330
Hawaii23,9148
Idaho25,77114
Illinois28,96026
Indiana26,64118
Iowa28,46623
Kansas27,21621
Kentucky29,52328
Louisiana23,8557
Maine36,33947
Maryland32,16543
Massachusetts31,54939
Michigan28,89525
Minnesota33,16844
Mississippi31,48538
Missouri29,61329
Montana27,15420
Nebraska24,2669
Nevada22,4183
New Hampshire41,51150
New Jersey31,81841
New Mexico20,4972
New York29,20927
North Carolina26,86619
North Dakota33,31845
Ohio30,04731
Oklahoma25,73713
Oregon26,32817
Pennsylvania38,52149
Rhode Island36,12146
South Carolina31,90242
South Dakota31,12935
Tennessee28,82124
Texas24,65510
Utah16,6331
Vermont31,61940
Virginia30,68834
Washington26,20716
West Virginia31,31737
Wisconsin30,60033
Wyoming23,4445

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%.

The Top 10 States With the Lowest Percentage of Graduates With College Debt

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.

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

The Top 10 States With the Highest Percentage of Graduates With College Debt

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.

  • 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%

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.

StatePercentage of 2019 Graduates with College DebtPercentage Change from 2018Percentage of 2019 Graduates with College Debt Ranking Lowest to Highest
Alabama47%5.45%10
Alaska45%25.71%6
Arizona49%4.05%14
Arkansas59%-10.43%30
California44%11.46%5
Colorado55%4.93%21
Connecticut80%7.23%49
D.C.48%-11.50%13
Delaware59%9.67%35
Florida46%-6.94%7
Georgia59%1.93%33
Hawaii43%-2.40%3
Idaho60%-6.92%36
Illinois59%-2.46%32
Indiana43%-8.73%4
Iowa56%-4.54%23
Kansas58%2.65%26
Kentucky55%3.81%22
Louisiana51%-13.21%16
Maine90%16.42%51
Maryland49%8.39%15
Massachusetts59%-1.22%34
Michigan58%-8.79%27
Minnesota72%3.94%45
Mississippi53%1.77%19
Missouri62%1.34%37
Montana52%-3.16%18
Nebraska58%-7.47%25
Nevada48%-0.81%12
New Hampshire81%12.94%50
New Jersey62%-5.28%38
New Mexico48%-7.32%11
New York54%-7.34%20
North Carolina57%2.82%24
North Dakota65%24.12%43
Ohio63%3.80%39
Oklahoma47%1.94%9
Oregon36%-8.03%2
Pennsylvania64%8.48%42
Rhode Island65%not enough info41
South Carolina74%3.37%47
South Dakota73%-2.40%46
Tennessee75%7.38%48
Texas51%-9.83%17
Utah32%-15.75%1
Vermont58%0.60%29
Virginia58%1.01%28
Washington59%10.71%31
West Virginia63%3.33%40
Wisconsin72%-1.45%44
Wyoming46%-4.21%8

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 $1.5 billion, while Californians carry over $130 billion in student loan debt total balances. The highest student loan debt per borrower of over $40,000 was recorded in Connecticut. Finally, Maine is the state where 90% of graduates have college debt.

References: Lendedu, Debt, Experian

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