College debt is a big issue for anyone looking into college right now. Whether you’re about to graduate high school or you’re considering going back to college as an adult, you’re going to have to consider college debt at some point.
But what you might not have thought about is the fact that different states have different college debt averages. That means the state in which you go to college can have a pretty substantial impact on your student debt. Read this state-by-state analysis of college debt to get a better understanding of the whole picture.
General Average Debt
When discussing localized student debt, this will probably be the first metric you look at. What states, overall, have the lowest and highest average debt?
The initial thing you might notice is that this is a startlingly localized measurement. The Northeast, especially New England, has by far the highest levels of student debt in the nation, though a few states in the Midwest and South have fairly high debt. You can see this easily in a list of the five states with the highest debt, which are all in New England:
Connecticut with $38,510
Pennsylvania with $36,854
Rhode Island with $36,250
New Hampshire with $34,415
Delaware with $34,144
On the other hand, the West coast, especially the Southwest, have very low levels of debt, as do a few states in the South. Of the five lowest states, all but one is in the Southwest, and all are toward the West:
Utah with $18,383
New Mexico with $21,237
Nevada with $22,064
Wyoming with $22,524
California with $22,785
Student Debt By College
Though this information is eye-opening, that doesn’t necessarily paint the whole picture. Something else you want to look at is the average student debt at the college you want to go to. This will much more accurately show you what type of student debt you’ll end up with.
For example, in New York, the college with the lowest average student debt is CUNY Lehman College, with an average of $4,410 — the lowest number across the nation. But the college with the highest is the New York School of Interior Design, with an average of $65,401, placing it as the highest in the nation. That means one state has both the highest and lowest average, and two students in the same state could walk away with a $60,000 difference in debt.
Though average student debt tends to be localized, it might make you feel better to learn that you can find low-debt colleges across the nation. Nine states have at least one college with an average debt under $10,000, and it’s a very regionally diverse list:
CUNY Lehman College in New York at $4,410
Bethel College-North Newton in Kansas at $5,633
Central Connecticut State University at $5,831
University of the Incarnate Word in Texas at $6,271
The College of Idaho at $7,202
Pennsylvania College of Technology at $7,219
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University at $7,454
Berea College in Kentucky at $7,468
Princeton University in New Jersey at $9,005
Percentage of Students That Graduate With Debt
This might even be a more important metric than the average debt, because this allows you to get an idea of whether you’ll end up with any debt at all. A state wherein a very low percentage of students graduate with debt will likely have better state programs and scholarships to allow students help with debt, which can be monumentally helpful.
Though most states have fairly high percentages, there’s still hope for getting out of college without debt. Eight states and one district have a percentage under 50%.
Utah with 38%
Washington, D.C. and Alaska with 46%
Wyoming with 47%
Louisiana with 48%
Nevada, Oklahoma, and Hawaii with 49%
Your location definitely plays a part in how much college debt you’ll end up with, and it’s a good idea to look at that when you’re making your college choices. But remember, debt isn’t always the problem. Focus on your financial wellness much more than you focus on the amount of debt you have. Paying off lots of debt is better than not paying off a small amount of debt.