This State Has the Highest Average Student Loan Debt in the US

Northeast states have the highest debt levels.

The student loan debt in America just keeps growing. According to the New York Federal Reserve, the student loan debt in America grew to over $1.38 trillion by 2017. However, the debt isn’t spread evenly across the country, as people in some states are much more likely to be weighed down by student debt.

To find out where the impact of student loan debt is greatest, GOBankingRates looked at data from the Institute for College Access and Success’s 12th Annual Student Debt Report and for each state broke down student loan debt by the percentage of graduates with debt and the average amount each student owed. New Hampshire had the highest average student loan debt of any state, but there’s much more to the story.

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Student Loan Debt Trends

Geographically, a large number of northeastern states made their way into the top 10 for highest average debt and highest percentage of graduates with debt. New Hampshire and Pennsylvania made both lists while Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island were among the 10 highest for average debt and Vermont made the top 10 for most students graduating with student loan debt.

If a state had a lower average amount of student loan debt, it was also more likely to have a low percentage of graduates with student loan debt. For example, Utah had the lowest percentage of graduates with debt at just 43 percent and the lowest average debt at under $20,000. In fact, the states with the second- and third-lowest percentages of graduates with debt, Wyoming and Arizona, were also both among the 10 states with the lowest debt.

Find Out: 15 Ways to Pay Off Student Loans

However, just because a state had a high number of graduates with college debt didn’t mean those debts were among the highest in the nation. For example, West Virginia had that highest percentage of graduates with student loan debt nationwide at 77 percent, but didn’t even make the top 10 in highest average debt per student. In fact, only four states ranked in the top 10 for both average debt level and highest percentage of students graduating with debt: Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and South Dakota.

Alabama was an outlier: The state tied for the fourth-lowest percentage of students with debt at just 50 percent. However, with an average debt of $31,275, it had the ninth-highest average debt of any state in the country. It was the only state that was in the 10 lowest states in one category, but the 10 highest in the other.

States With the Highest Average Student Debt

RankStateAverage Debt
1New Hampshire$36,367
7South Dakota$31,362
10Rhode Island$31,217

States With the Lowest Average Student Debt

RankStateAverage Debt
2New Mexico$21,373
9North Carolina$25,562

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Methodology: GOBankingRates evaluated the student loan debt level and the percentage of students carrying debt in every state except North Dakota, due to insufficient data, using the TICAS 12th Annual Student Debt report on the student loan debt of graduates from four-year colleges. This report is the most up-to-date version available and covers the class of 2016. A No. 1 ranking shows the highest average debt or the highest percentage of graduates with debt; No. 50 shows the lowest.