6 States Where Average Student Debt Is Over $30,000

Source: Thinkstock

Debt remains a prerequisite for millions of students obtaining a college degree. Across the nation, student loan levels continue to rise with each passing school year, but how much varies significantly by state and college.

The majority of graduates in the United States are holding a diploma in one hand and student loans in the other. In 2013, seven in 10 graduating seniors at public and private nonprofit colleges had student loans, according to a new report from the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS). Nationally, the average debt for these graduates totaled $28,400, 2% higher than the previous year. However, at nearly one in five colleges, average debt burdens jumped 10% or more. In both years, about one-fifth of new graduates’ debt was in private loans.

“While loans are increasingly needed to get through school, graduating with burdensome debt is not a foregone conclusion,” said Lauren Asher, president of TICAS, in a press release. “Where you go to college matters, and the kind of loans you have matter, too. Federal student loans come with crucial consumer protections like income-based repayment plans, while private loans offer little or no relief if you hit a rough patch.”

How important is location? At the state level, average debt per borrower at graduation ranged from $18,656 to $32,795. In fact, six states averaged more than $30,000, while only one state averaged less than $20,000. As the table below shows, nearly all the highest debt states are in the Northeast and Midwest, with the lowest debt states in the West and South.

Source: Institute for College Access and Success

“Graduates from New Hampshire colleges are almost twice as likely as Nevada graduates to leave school with student loan debt, and they owe almost twice as much as graduates from New Mexico colleges,” said Debbie Cochrane, research director at TICAS and coauthor of the report. “The importance of state policy and investment cannot be overstated when it comes to student debt levels.”

Average debt at graduation varied even more widely from college to college, from less than $2,500 to more than $71,000 in 2013. The odds of graduating with loans also ranged, from 10% to 100%. Interestingly, the debt figures in the report are likely to be underestimated due to so many for-profit colleges not disclosing figures, or reporting colleges being unaware of students’ private loan amounts.

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