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Managing Student Debt

Navigating College Debt by State

Provided by TechGirl Financial

Whether you’re an anxious high schooler looking toward the future or an established adult looking for a change, you might be looking for more information on college debt. It’s tough to talk about, largely because the future with student debt can seem pretty bleak sometimes. But if you establish your financial know-how, you can definitely get out of college with manageable student debt.

One of the important things to pay attention to is student debt by state. With this state-by-state analysis of student debt, you can know what to look out for when you start getting ready to really decide on your college.

Average Statewide Student Debt

This is probably the metric you’ll go to first if you’re trying to determine student debt in a state. Though it’s not always the most helpful, it can definitely be a useful way to more thoroughly understand debt in a specific area.

When you first start to look at statewide student debt, one thing will probably jump out at you. It’s actually a fairly localized phenomenon: certain areas tend toward having higher student debt than others. This is usually an East coast/West coast split, too.

On the East coast, you’ll usually find higher tuition. This is localized mostly to the New England area. In fact, all of the five states with the highest student debt on average are in New England.

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

On the other side of the nation, you’ll find much lower student debt on average. The West coast, and more explicitly the Southwest states, are more likely to have lower student debt. You can see this plainly in the five states with the lowest student debt, of which all but one are in the Southwest.

  • Utah with $18,383
  • New Mexico with $21,237
  • Nevada with $22,064
  • Wyoming with $22,524
  • California with $22,785

Average Debt by College

Though statewide debt is a useful metric at times, it’s absolutely not the only metric you can use. It’s equally important to pay attention to the amount of debt at a certain college. This number can vary widely between states, and it’s important that you pay attention to it if you want to graduate with a manageable amount of debt.

Take New York, for example. Its average statewide debt of $30,931 places it on the high side of average when it comes to overall debt. But its lowest college, CUNY Lehman College, has an average of $4,410, while its highest college, New York School of Interior Design, has an average of $65,401.

You can see similar diversity in even the highest and lowest states across the board. Connecticut has the nation’s highest average at $38,510, but its lowest college, Central Connecticut State University, has an average of $5,831. Conversely, Utah holds the nation’s lowest average at $18,383, but its highest college, Neumont University, is even higher than Connecticut’s average as a whole, with $39,623.

Percentage of Students Graduating With Debt

This is another very important metric that you need to pay attention to if you’re going to graduate with manageable debt. If a lower percentage of students graduate with debt, it’s likely that you’ll be able to find programs that can help you reduce or eliminate your debt entirely.

These metrics only take into account the average amount of debt that individuals who graduate with debt end up with. That means it doesn’t include anyone who graduates without debt. You could end up being one of those lucky few.

State percentages do tend to be fairly high, but you can find nine locations with a percentage under 50%.

  • Utah with 38%
  • Washington, D.C. and Alaska with 46%
  • Wyoming with 47%
  • Louisiana with 48%
  • Nevada, Oklahoma, and Hawaii with 49%


What’s the most important way to measure student debt when you’re trying to determine a college? It depends on a variety of things. You should really be looking into all of these metrics, not just one or two. With good financial wellness preparedness strategies, you’ll be prepared for any and all financial issues you may encounter throughout college and in the years after.

Registered Representative of and securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. TechGirl Financial™ and Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., are not affiliated companies.

529 plans, 529s, college education planning, college savings accounts, education, student debt

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Securities offered through Registered Representatives of Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisors Services through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor.

Tech Girl Financial is not affiliated with Cambridge. Check the background of this investment professional on FINRA's BrokerCheck.
This communication is strictly intended for individuals residing in the states of AZ, CA, CO, FL, ID, IL, IN, KY, MI, MT, NC, NH, NJ, NV, OR, SC, SD, VA, WI. No offers may be made or accepted from any resident outside the specific states referenced.

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