Can you guess how much of the U.S. population has student debt? According to The Institute for College Access & Success, 7 in 10 seniors (69%) who graduated from public and nonprofit colleges in 2014 had student loan debt. The average borrower had student loans totaling $26,860! While the percent of graduates with debt rose slightly from 65% to 69%, the average amount of debt at graduation increased dramatically. Have a look bellow at our new animated map to see the ten-year change in student debt from 2004-2014 in each state. The results are astonishing!

Drowning in Loans

Based on calculations by The Institute for College Access & Success, the average amount of student debt from the Class of 2004 was $17,493.  Over a decade, student debt increased by over $9,000 (+54%)! Below we highlight the states that experienced the smallest and largest change in average student debt.

Top 5 Increases in Student Debt (by %)

  • Delaware: +129%

  • Maryland: +118%

  • Illinois: +85%

  • Kentucky: +82%

  • Hawaii: +82%

Bottom 5 Increases in Student Debt (by %)

  • Florida: +32%

  • Arizona: +25%

  • Iowa: +23%

  • Louisiana: +21%

  • Idaho: +17%

We have also compared the states in which students have the highest amounts of debt on average in both 2004 and 2014.

Highest Average Student Debt (2014)

  • Delaware: $33,808

  • New Hampshire: $33,410

  • Pennsylvania: $33,264

  • Rhode Island: $31,841

  • Minnesota: $31,579

Highest Average Student Debt (2004)

  • Iowa: $24,204

  • North Dakota: $22,409

  • Idaho: $22,273

  • New Hampshire: $21,441

  • Vermont: $20,706

Comparing both sets of data, it is important to highlight that Delaware made the top of the list for both top 5 increases in student debt (by %) and highest average student debt (2014). Additionally, both Iowa and Idaho were in the bottom 5 increases in student debt (by %) andhighest average student debt (2004). Looking at the data collected as a whole, the states with the largest increases in average debt are spread across the country rather than clustered in one single geographic region of the country. If there is no geographic connection, what could be causing this rapid increase in borrowing?

Bad News for Students

Based on a previous article entitled “The Most and Least Expensive Places to get a Degree in Each State,” tuition fees have been rising faster than inflation for decades and although tuition increases seem to be slowing down, cumulative undergraduate debt is rising as a result of little to no growth in income levels. According to the article, there are 18 schools that cost more than $60,000 per year with the most expensive schools located in New York, California, Illinois, New Hampshire (second highest average student debt in 2014), and Vermont. While not all colleges carry the same price tag, the rising cost of higher education does provide an insight into the student debt crisis. Given the complexity of relationships between employment trends, graduation statistics, interest rates, and other economic factors, it is difficult to assign blame to any single person or entity. Although it is difficult to pinpoint the culprit for the rise in borrowing that has led to $1.2 trillion in student debt across 40 million Americans, yearly trends show that getting a diploma has become a more costly investment today than it was for our parents and grandparents.

This GIF Shows The Explosion of Student Loan Debt in the Past Decade  via Howmuch.net