Student Loan Debt by State – A Complete Rundown

In 2019, 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.

State Total Student Loan 2019 in Billions $ Total Student Loan 2019 in Billions $ Ranking Lowest to Highest
Alabama 20.7 28
Alaska 2.1 2
Arizona 27.5 36
Arkansas 11.5 20
California 131.2 51
Colorado 25.9 33
Connecticut 15.4 24
D.C. 6.1 12
Delaware 4.1 8
Florida 87.2 49
Georgia 60 47
Hawaii 4.1 7
Idaho 6.4 13
Illinois 56.5 44
Indiana 27.5 35
Iowa 12.4 21
Kansas 11.5 19
Kentucky 17.8 25
Louisiana 19.6 27
Maine 5.6 10
Maryland 32.1 39
Massachusetts 28.2 38
Michigan 47.2 43
Minnesota 24.7 31
Mississippi 14.4 23
Missouri 27.1 34
Montana 3.8 6
Nebraska 7.3 16
Nevada 10.1 18
New Hampshire 5.9 11
New Jersey 37.6 40
New Mexico 7 15
New York 85.3 48
North Carolina 42.7 42
North Dakota 2.3 3
Ohio 57.4 45
Oklahoma 13.8 22
Oregon 18.5 26
Pennsylvania 58.7 46
Rhode Island 4.1 9
South Carolina 24.4 30
South Dakota 3.3 5
Tennessee 27.8 37
Texas 103 50
Utah 8.9 17
Vermont 2.6 4
Virginia 38 41
Washington 25.3 32
West Virginia 6.6 14
Wisconsin 21.5 29
Wyoming 1.5 1

 

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.

State Average Student Debt per Borrower Average Student Debt per Borrower Ranking from Lowest to Highest
Alabama 31,174 36
Alaska 27,852 22
Arizona 24,709 11
Arkansas 23,798 6
California 25,112 12
Colorado 26,111 15
Connecticut 41,579 51
D.C. 30,118 32
Delaware 37,447 48
Florida 22,953 4
Georgia 29,783 30
Hawaii 23,914 8
Idaho 25,771 14
Illinois 28,960 26
Indiana 26,641 18
Iowa 28,466 23
Kansas 27,216 21
Kentucky 29,523 28
Louisiana 23,855 7
Maine 36,339 47
Maryland 32,165 43
Massachusetts 31,549 39
Michigan 28,895 25
Minnesota 33,168 44
Mississippi 31,485 38
Missouri 29,613 29
Montana 27,154 20
Nebraska 24,266 9
Nevada 22,418 3
New Hampshire 41,511 50
New Jersey 31,818 41
New Mexico 20,497 2
New York 29,209 27
North Carolina 26,866 19
North Dakota 33,318 45
Ohio 30,047 31
Oklahoma 25,737 13
Oregon 26,328 17
Pennsylvania 38,521 49
Rhode Island 36,121 46
South Carolina 31,902 42
South Dakota 31,129 35
Tennessee 28,821 24
Texas 24,655 10
Utah 16,633 1
Vermont 31,619 40
Virginia 30,688 34
Washington 26,207 16
West Virginia 31,317 37
Wisconsin 30,600 33
Wyoming 23,444 5

 

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.

State Percentage of 2019 Graduates with College Debt Percentage Change from 2018 Percentage of 2019 Graduates with College Debt Ranking Lowest to Highest
Alabama 47% 5.45% 10
Alaska 45% 25.71% 6
Arizona 49% 4.05% 14
Arkansas 59% -10.43% 30
California 44% 11.46% 5
Colorado 55% 4.93% 21
Connecticut 80% 7.23% 49
D.C. 48% -11.50% 13
Delaware 59% 9.67% 35
Florida 46% -6.94% 7
Georgia 59% 1.93% 33
Hawaii 43% -2.40% 3
Idaho 60% -6.92% 36
Illinois 59% -2.46% 32
Indiana 43% -8.73% 4
Iowa 56% -4.54% 23
Kansas 58% 2.65% 26
Kentucky 55% 3.81% 22
Louisiana 51% -13.21% 16
Maine 90% 16.42% 51
Maryland 49% 8.39% 15
Massachusetts 59% -1.22% 34
Michigan 58% -8.79% 27
Minnesota 72% 3.94% 45
Mississippi 53% 1.77% 19
Missouri 62% 1.34% 37
Montana 52% -3.16% 18
Nebraska 58% -7.47% 25
Nevada 48% -0.81% 12
New Hampshire 81% 12.94% 50
New Jersey 62% -5.28% 38
New Mexico 48% -7.32% 11
New York 54% -7.34% 20
North Carolina 57% 2.82% 24
North Dakota 65% 24.12% 43
Ohio 63% 3.80% 39
Oklahoma 47% 1.94% 9
Oregon 36% -8.03% 2
Pennsylvania 64% 8.48% 42
Rhode Island 65% not enough info 41
South Carolina 74% 3.37% 47
South Dakota 73% -2.40% 46
Tennessee 75% 7.38% 48
Texas 51% -9.83% 17
Utah 32% -15.75% 1
Vermont 58% 0.60% 29
Virginia 58% 1.01% 28
Washington 59% 10.71% 31
West Virginia 63% 3.33% 40
Wisconsin 72% -1.45% 44
Wyoming 46% -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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