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Can Your State Really Impact Your Student Debt?

When you’re planning to go to college, it’s important that you do as much as you can to mitigate your student debt all the way throughout. It may surprise you to learn, but the state that you go to college in might actually affect the amount of student debt you end up with, so you might want to pay attention to that piece of information. How might it happen? With this state-by-state analysis of student debt, you’ll know what to pay attention to when it comes to your college state.

Average Debt

Of course, you’ll probably turn to this metric first. The average amount of debt for a graduate of a specific state does give you a pretty decent starting point. Although it isn’t a 100% accurate prediction, it can actually provide you with some localized information.

When you look at average debt, you’ll start to notice that the East coast — specifically New England — tends toward more student debt, while the West coast — specifically the Southwest — tends toward less. These are the five states with the highest average debt:

  • Connecticut with $38,510
  • Pennsylvania with $36,854
  • Rhode Island with $36,250
  • New Hampshire with $34,415
  • Delaware with $34,144

And here are the five with the lowest:

  • Utah with $18,383
  • New Mexico with $21,237
  • Nevada with $22,064
  • Wyoming with $22,524
  • California with $22,785

You’ll notice that all five of the highest states are in New England and all five of the lowest, except for Wyoming, are in the Southwest.

Individual Colleges

Of course, a general average doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to cancel out an entire state because of the potential debt load. An individual college actually help in reducing your debt or significantly increase it.

Take New York, for example. Its average of $30,931 places it on the higher end of the middle of the pack. But its lowest-average college, CUNY Lehman College, is the lowest overall at $4,410, and its highest, New York School of Interior Design, is highest overall at $65,401. That’s nearly $61,000 in debt that you could either take on or avoid depending on the school in a specific state.

Thankfully, this is a much more regionally diverse metric than that of individual colleges. You can find nine different colleges all across the United States with an average debt load under $10,000

  • 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 With Debt

You can increase your chances of a low student debt burden after college if you find a state wherein a lower percentage of students graduate without debt. This can be due to a variety of things, but it often has to do with better state and local programs that help students with debt. That means even if you don’t get out completely debt-free, you can usually reduce your debt at least a little.

Most states, unfortunately, have a pretty high percentage, and none have a percentage under 30%. But despite that, there are eight states and one district that boast a debt 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%


If you’re worried about the amount of debt that you might graduate with, you might not want to make location your first consideration, but you should definitely consider it at least a little bit. If you’re stuck between two similar colleges in different states, for example, then it might be useful to think about the state you’re learning in.

Just remember that location also plays a part in debt delinquency. Though the Southwest has low average debt, it also includes many low-income ZIP codes, which result in a higher average debt delinquency. Focus on your financial wellness as much as your debt burden and you’ll be set for life.

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