A college degree gives graduates the chance to get higher-paying jobs in specialized fields, but it can come with a hefty price tag that leaves many Americans with crippling student loan repayments. For borrowers in some US states, the debt burden is even heavier.
Average student loan debt among the Class of 2020 ranges from $18,350 in Utah to $39,950 in New Hampshire, according to a new report by the Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS). The map below shows the average student loan balance among bachelor’s degree holders in each state.
Average debt after graduation was over $30,000 in 19 states, and it exceeded $35,000 in six states: New Hampshire ($39,928), Delaware ($39,705), Pennsylvania ($39,375), Rhode Island ($36,791), Connecticut ($35,853) and New Jersey ($35,117).
“Despite the flattening of student debt levels in recent years, graduate debt has remained near record highs, and borrower debt continues to make their lives financially perilous,” said TICAS President , Sameer Gadkaree.
Keep reading to learn more about where borrowers have the highest and lowest student loan balances, as well as alternative student loan repayment options like refinancing. You can compare student loan refinance rates from several private lenders on Credible’s online marketplace.
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Where borrowers have the most student loan debt
Graduates from New Hampshire, Delaware, and Pennsylvania have the highest average student loan debt—in all three states, the average student loan balance after graduation exceeds $39,000. Of the top 10 states with the highest student loan balances, all are in New England or the central regions of the Northeast Atlantic.
Generally, student borrowers in the Northeast have more student debt than those living in the Southern and Western states. There are a few exceptions, however, with some Midwest and Southern borrowers graduating with high levels of debt:
- No. 11 South Carolina ($32,635)
- No. 12 South Dakota ($32,029)
- No. 13 Minnesota ($32,012)
- No. 14 North Dakota ($31,939)
- No. 15 Alabama ($30,996)
In many states with high student loan balances, the total cost of attending a four-year public or nonprofit institution is higher. the average college cost in Massachusetts is $53,853, which is still significantly more expensive than in New Hampshire ($45,393), the state with the highest average debt balance. In New York, the total cost of attendance is $46,955, but borrowers on average only have $30,951 in debt.
In the District of Columbia, which has the ninth-highest student loan debt balance, the cost of college is the most expensive at $64,354. That’s nearly double the average amount of student debt in the nation’s capital, suggesting that many DC students rely on financing methods in addition to loans to pay for their college education.
If you’re looking for ways to pay off high amounts of student loans, consider refinancing when student loan interest rates are near their lowest levels. You can browse current student loan refinance rates in the table below and visit Credible to see your estimated interest rate for free without affecting your credit score.
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Where borrowers have the least student loan debt
Graduates from some states are blessed with lower student debt than the national average. Yet No. 1 Utah is the only state with an average student debt below $20,000.
Almost all of the states where graduates have low student loan balances are located in the American West. Student borrowers in New Mexico ($20,868), California ($21,125), Nevada ($21,357), Wyoming ($23,510) and Washington ($23,993) have debt levels much more manageable than those living in the Northeastern states.
the total cost of college tends to be cheaper in states with lower student debt levels. In Utah, the state with the least student loan debt per borrower, the average cost to earn a college degree is $20,769. There are two states where the cost of a college education is under $20,000: Wyoming ($19,960) and Idaho ($19,296).
In some states, the average student loan balance exceeds the total cost of a college education. This is likely because there are hidden university expenses, such as rent and food costs, which may require students to borrow additional money to complete their studies. If you’ve borrowed more student loans than you can repay and you’re considering refinancing on better terms, use Credible’s Student Loan Refinance Calculator to see your potential savings.
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Strategies for repaying your student loans
Even among states with the lowest student debt, paying off these loans can be difficult. If you’re struggling to repay your student loans, consider the following options:
- Sign up for an income-based repayment (IDR) plan, which limits your monthly federal student loan payments to 10-20% of your disposable income. You can learn more about IDR plans on the Federal Student Aid website.
- Work for a company that offers student loan repayment assistance. According to the Benefits Research Institute, about two in five large companies plan to offer this benefit within the next two years.
- Refinance a private student loan at a lower interest rate. Student loan refinancing can help you lower your monthly payments, get out of debt faster, and save money on interest charges over time.
It is important to note that refinance your federal student loan in a private loan will make you ineligible for government protections, such as COVID-19 emergency forbearance, IDR plans, and some student loan forgiveness programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).
You can learn more about refinancing student loans by contacting a knowledgeable loan expert from Credible who can help you decide if this debt repayment strategy is right for you.
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