Did you graduate in 2015? Did you take out a student loan? Then your debt upon entering the job market was exactly $30,100. At least, that is the national average according to TICAS, the Institute for College Access and Success.
Some shocking findings from its 11th annual report on student debt:
- Almost seven in ten college graduates (68%) in 2015 had student debt.
- While that figure is similar to 2014, the average amount of student debt itself increased by 4%, crossing the $30K threshold for the first time.
- The burden is spread unevenly across the land, with state averages for share of graduates with debt ranging from 76% in New Hampshire to 41% in Utah.
- The same two states also figure on opposite ends of the range of average amount of student debt, from a high of $36,101 in New Hampshire to a low of $18,872 for Utah.
Top 10 of states with the highest student debt
1. New Hampshire – $36,101
2. Pennsylvania – $34,798
3. Connecticut – $34,773
4. Delaware – $33,849
5. Rhode Island – $32,920
[drizzle]6. Minnesota – $31,526
7. Massachusetts – $31,466
8. Washington DC – $31,452
9. South Carolina – $30,564
10. Ohio – $30,239
The Northeast is the most expensive part of the country to study; six of the Top-10 high-debt states are in this region, with just one state in the Midwest and the South. DC completes the list.
Some states with a high debt average also rank in the Top 10 for percentage of graduates with debt. As mentioned, New Hampshire leads in both categories. Pennsylvania ranks third, with 71% of graduates in debt. Minnesota ranks fifth with 70% and Massachusetts and Ohio share eighth place with 66%.
Others do somewhat better, like Delaware, finishing thirteenth with 65%; and Rhode Island and Connecticut, jointly finishing fourteenth with 64%. And then there are those that combine high average debt with a relatively low percentage of graduates in debt: South Carolina, twenty-seventh with 60%; the District of Columbia, fortieth with 55%.
Top 10 of least-indebted states
1. Utah – $18,873
2. New Mexico – $20,193
3. California – $22,191
4. Wyoming – $22,683
5. Florida – $23,379
6. Hawaii – $23,456
7. Nevada – $23,462
8. Arizona – $23,780
9. Washington – $24,600
10. Oklahoma – $24,849
The amount of student debt has a clear geographic parameter. Where the highest-debt states were concentrated in the Northeast, nine of the ten lowest-debt ones are west of the Mississippi. Florida is the only outlier.
Also mirroring the other list, most of the states here also figure in the Top 10 of lowest percentage of graduates indebted. Utah has the lowest percentage, as mentioned. Following are Wyoming, forty-ninth with 46%; Nevada, forty-eighth with 47%; Hawaii, forty-seventh with 50%; Oklahoma, forty-fourth with 52%; Florida, forty-third with 53%; and California, forty-second with 54% of graduates in debt.
Doing somewhat worse are Arizona, thirty-sixth with 56%; Washington state, thirty-fourth with 57%; and New Mexico, thirty-third with 58%.
It is notable that the lowest-debt states are all much further under the national average than the highest-debt states are over it. Take the first and last state on each list: New Hampshire is only $6,000 over the average, Ohio a mere $140; while New Hampshire is more than $12,500 cheaper, and even Oklahoma beats the national average by more than $5,000.
One of the main reasons is precisely the fact that higher-debt states also tend to have more graduates in debt than lower-debt states.
Student debt is a complex issue, and the figures released by TICAS should not be interpreted without context, as the report itself states. Colleges are not required to report the debt levels of their graduates, and the figures used for the report were provided voluntarily by just over 1,000 public and nonprofit bachelors’ degree-granting four-year colleges – just over half the total. Most for-profit colleges, who turned out 7% of all bachelors’ degrees in 2015, did not provide data. Indications are that student debt, both in percentage of students affected and in amount of the average debt, is an even bigger issue here.