Are Certain States Better for Student Debt Than Others?

Student debt is an important topic for everyone, whether you’re looking into college, currently enrolled in college, or just trying to get a better idea of the economy. Regardless of where you are in the process, it’s a good idea to learn more about the ins and outs of student debt. This state-by-state analysis of student debt may be able to give you some interesting insights.

The Highest Averages

Which states have the highest averages overall? It turns out, the East Coast tends to take a pretty big hit on collegiate wallets, as all five of the most expensive states on average are in New England.

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

Outside the East Coast, there are a few outliers that tend to be more expensive. That includes Alabama, ranking #8 with a $31,889 average, and Minnesota, ranking #9 with a $31,734 average.

The Lowest Averages

What about on the other side? When it comes to the lowest averages across the board, the West coast clearly dominates. All but one of the states with the lowest average is part of the Southwest state cluster.

  • Utah: $18,838
  • New Mexico: $21,237
  • Nevada: $22,064
  • Wyoming: $22,524
  • California: $22,785

Still, there’s hope for people who don’t want to move to this area. Up North, you can find Washington, ranking as sixth lowest with a $23,936 average. Along the East Coast, you can find Florida, ranking as eighth lowest with a $24,041 average, and Tennessee, ranking as tenth lowest with a $25,252 average.

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Understanding College Price Ranges

Of course, an average doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. These averages pull from huge price ranges, which means it’s definitely possible to go to school in these states without racking up huge amounts of debt.

For example, New York’s average of $30,931 places it at #13 overall. However, the least expensive college taken into account was CUNY Lehman College, which averaged $4,410, only a fraction of the average of even the lowest state. Its most expensive college was New York School of Interior Design at a whopping $65,401, over double the state’s average.

Even in the most expensive states, you can find a variety of more affordable options. Connecticut, the most expensive on average, offers Central Connecticut State University, which averages only $5,831 student debt. Clearly you don’t always have to move just to get an affordable education.

Taking Social Class Into Account

Because the East Coast tends to have more expensive colleges, you’d assume they also have a higher rate of debt delinquencies, right? The research shows that it’s actually very much the opposite. Areas with higher average college debt tend to also have higher median area incomes and therefore lower rates of debt delinquency.

Though this dichotomy isn’t 100% accurate, it holds true much of the time. If you’re considering moving to get a better price for your college education, consider the way social class plays into it. You may be better off staying in your home state.


College debt is a complicated topic, and no one understands that quite like college students themselves. If you’re planning to go to college, you probably shouldn’t use averages to make your choice. Instead, look into the individual college you’re interested in first.

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