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The Average Student Loan Debt in Every State

Christine DiGangi

It was big news when outstanding student loan debt surpassed credit card debt and then later exceeded $1 trillion for the first time. That shocking statistic keeps climbing, with no sign of slowing down: Americans now have more than $1.4 trillion in unpaid education debt, according to the Federal Reserve.

Meanwhile, college-bound kids and their families try to avoid going into debt by heeding advice like "save more," "apply for scholarships" or "go to a cheaper school." Of course, none of those address the major issue of rising costs that have far outpaced wage growth.

It's smart to avoid student loan debt if you can, because those loans affect your credit and your financial future. (You can see how much by checking your free credit scores on Credit.com.) However, strategically choosing a school isn't quite as straightforward as comparing tuition and fees.

One thing you can do is check out an institution's net price calculator, which should be on its website, to see how much a student like you would pay after grants and scholarships. Another thing you can do is look at how much student loan debt recent grads ended up with. (You can read more about options for repaying your student loans here.)

Where Is Student Loan Debt the Lowest?

The response to that question is a little trickier to figure out, but organizations like The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) have compiled such data to help. According to their Project on Student Debt, 68% of 2015 bachelor's degree recipients graduated with student loan debt. The average was $30,100 per borrower.

TICAS put together their project based on student loan debt figures from the "Common Data Set," a survey of colleges used by college-guide publishers. The colleges voluntarily self report their data, which presents problems.

"Colleges that accurately calculate and report each year's debt figures rightfully complain that other colleges may have students with higher average debt but fail to update their figures, under-report actual debt levels, or never report figures at all," reads the methodology for the Project on Student Debt. "Additionally, very few for-profit colleges report debt data through CDS, and national data show that borrowing levels at for-profit colleges are, on average, much higher than borrowing levels at other types of colleges."

Student Loan Debt by State

For students who earned bachelor's degrees in 2015, the most recent year for which data were available, TICAS determined the average student loan debt in each state by using data from 1,116 colleges. For comparison, there are more than 3,000 four-year institutions in the U.S.

Beyond that, the data were limited to bachelor's degree recipients, meaning those who had debt but lacked a degree weren't included, and if a student acquired debt at a different school before transferring to the one where they graduated, those numbers weren't included in the totals. Still, as TICAS notes in the methodology for the Project on Student Debt, "CDS data are still useful for illustrating the variations in student debt across states and colleges."

Here's a state-by-state breakdown of the average student loan debt, from lowest to highest, for the class of 2015. The Project on Student Debt also lists student-loan-debt data by school. (Note: North Dakota is not included in this list, as TICAS did not include states where useable data reflected less than 30% of the state's bachelor's degree recipients in 2015.)

Utah

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 41%
Average debt: $18,873

New Mexico

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 58%
Average debt: $20,193

Wyoming

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 46%
Average debt: $22,683

Florida

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 53%
Average debt: $23,379

Hawaii

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 50%
Average debt: $23,456

Nevada

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 47%
Average debt: $23,462

Arizona

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 56%
Average debt: $23,780

Washington

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 57%
Average debt: $24,600

Oklahoma

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 52%
Average debt: $24,849

North Carolina

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 61%
Average debt: $25,645

Colorado

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 56%
Average debt: $25,840

Arkansas

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 57%
Average debt: $26,082

Tennessee

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 60%
Average debt: $26,083

Alaska

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 55%
Average debt: $26,171

Nebraska

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 60%
Average debt: $26,235

Montana

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 60%
Average debt: $26,280

Louisiana

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 51%
Average debt: $26,865

Kentucky

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 64%
Average debt: $27,225

Texas

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 56%
Average debt: $27,324

Missouri

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 61%
Average debt: $27,480

Idaho

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 71%
Average debt: $27,639

Maryland

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 56%
Average debt: $27,672

Oregon

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 63%
Average debt: $27,697

West Virginia

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 68%
Average debt: $27,713

Virginia

2015 graduates with student loan debt: 59%
Average debt: $27,717

 

You can see the average debt in the rest of the states on Credit.com.

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