Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Education is priceless. Whether it’s earning your bachelor’s degree or learning about financial wellness, the quest for knowledge is an endless pursuit that opens doors to countless opportunities in life. But at what cost?
The price of higher education in the U.S. is enormous, to the point where earning a university degree is one of the most expensive endeavors a person can undertake. In return for higher education, many American students go into substantial amounts of debt.
We take debt seriously—especially when that debt is primarily owed by young adults who are still vying for proper footing in life. We decided to take a look at the states with the highest and lowest amounts of student debt. We hope the data below helps provide financial insight to help students make informed decisions for their futures.
For this campaign, our team analyzed financial data released by the office of Federal Student Aid, a sub-office within the U.S. Department of Education. Using their reports, we were able to determine the student debt associated with each state and the number of borrowers in each state. By extension, we were able to calculate the cumulative student debt in every state, the average debt per student by state, and nationwide averages of student borrowers.
The 10 States with the Most and Least Student Debt
While prolific student debt sweeps across the nation, some states are further in the hole than others. California is leading the country with an astounding $137,760,000,000 in collective student debt. And they’re not the only ones owing astronomical amounts of money for education received.
Texas takes second place, with $110,630,000,000 accumulated in total student debt. In third place, students in Florida are grateful that their collective debt doesn’t quite crack 12 digits. Still, they have a whopping $93,420,000,000 in student loans to repay!
Floridian borrowers won’t be happy to know that they still racked up nearly 41 times more debt than Wyoming—the state with the least total student debt. Other states in the bottom 10 included Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, and South Dakota. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that individual students in these states have it any easier when it comes to paying off student loans.
The total student debt pool by state only shows part of the picture. Do students in California and Texas really have it worse when it comes to paying off student debt? Or are they simply part of a larger student population, driving up the total debt in their respective states with sheer student volume? To find out, we looked at the average amount of debt individual students are responsible for.
The 10 States with the Highest and Lowest Average Student Debt by Borrower
California and Texas, with their massive overall student debt, were absent from the top 10 states when it came to the average student debt for each borrower. However, Georgia, Illinois, and North Carolina all remained in the top ten when it came to the highest average student debt by borrower.
The unlucky contender was Georgia, where each student owes an average debt of $41,310. Only students in Maryland and the District of Columbia owe more for their education, averaging $42,431 and $54,905, respectively.
The states with the least total student debt remained more consistent in terms of average student debt per person. Four states—North Dakota, South Dakota, Rhode Island, and Wyoming—make an appearance on both lists, suggesting that they truly are less expensive states to earn a college degree in.
The 10 States With the Highest and Lowest Number of Student Borrowers
Since several of the states with the most total student debt didn’t have the highest average debt on an individual level, it’s no surprise that they had more borrowers to contribute to the overall debt.
California is back at the top with a total of 3,807,100 borrowers contributing to its massive student debt pool. In fact, the lists are identical other than Georgia moving from the 5th to the 8th spot on the ranking.
We also saw a lot of overlap between states with the fewest number of lenders and the least total student debt. In fact, the four states with the fewest borrowers- Wyoming, Alaska, Vermont, and North Dakota- have fewer than 100,000 students borrowing money for school.
The difference between the states with the highest and lowest number of borrowers is astounding. California has 73 times the number of student borrowers as Wyoming.
While $23,589 is nothing to scoff at, it’s an easier pill to swallow than the difference in the highest and lowest cumulative debt by state—$134,340,000,000. The real takeaway, however, is that however you slice it, student debt is staggering in every state!
We hope this data breakdown delivers a useful perspective to those who are in or will be entering the U.S. higher education system. We aim to help students choose wisely for their educational and financial futures. To take it a step further, we want to provide anyone with the knowledge and tools to become better equipped to take on the world of educational debt.
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