States with higher debt levels are concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest

With 70% of bachelor’s degree recipients graduating with loans, student debt is becoming an almost universal experience, but that experience may differ depending on where you live.

The average student debt load in each state ranges from $20,000 in Utah to $36,350 in New Hampshire, according to a report released Wednesday by the Institute for College Access and Success, an organization focused on increasing equality in higher education. The report is based on student-loan data from public and private, nonprofit colleges.

The states with the highest debt levels tend to be concentrated in particular areas of the country. In the Northeast, which has many of these states, students are more likely to attend private nonprofit colleges, which typically cost more, leaving students with more debt, said Debbie Cochrane, the vice president of TICAS.

States with the highest average debt loads

States with the lowest average debt loads

“In the Northeast states, there’s more of a tradition of nonprofit colleges than in the West,” she said. What’s more, public colleges in the Northeast may also have a higher concentration of out-of-state students, which could drive up the average debt load because of the added cost of attending school out of state. “In some of the larger western states, there are very few students relatively speaking who are coming from other states,” Cochrane said.

It’s harder to understand what’s behind the relatively high debt in Midwestern states, she said. One possible explanation is that In some of these states, including Minnesota, tuition is relatively high and there’s little grant aid to go around.

Continue Reading