15 States With the Most Student Loan Debt

student debt loans man distraught distressed
Damir Khabirov / Shutterstock.com

This story originally appeared on Smartest Dollar.

Since 2012, student loans have had the highest delinquency rate of any form of consumer debt. And while recent data from the New York Federal Reserve suggests that student loan delinquency rates have declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, this data actually reflects the effect of government forbearance programs. While a large share of student loans are currently in forbearance due to COVID-19 aid programs, students — many of whom might struggle to find work in a depressed economy — will be put in a precarious situation when aid programs end. How the new administration tackles the student loan crisis will be critical for many degree holders struggling to make their payments.

While forbearance programs keep the rate of delinquencies and the burden of student loan debt suppressed in the short term, the longer-term trend shows that student loan debt has been rising steadily. Since 2005, while total household debt rose 56 percent, student loan debt grew by more than 330 percent — reaching a staggering $1.5 trillion in the third quarter of 2019. Apart from mortgages, student loans are now the largest source of consumer debt, accounting for 35 percent of non-mortgage household debt.

Making the situation more challenging for borrowers with student loan debt, these loans can be extremely difficult to discharge, even after filing for bankruptcy. While discharging this type of debt can be challenging, it is not impossible, and student loan debt forgiveness is a growing topic of discussion in Congress and within the incoming Biden administration.

States with the greatest student loan debt per borrower

Young woman considering student loans for college savings
pathdoc / Shutterstock.com

To find where students have been most impacted by the growing student debt problem, researchers at Smartest Dollar ranked states based on the average student loan debt per borrower using data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Consumer Credit Panel.

Researchers chose to use 2019 data (instead of 2020 data) since reporting changes in 2020 stemming from COVID-19 forbearance programs resulted in substantial drops in delinquency rates that were not the result of individuals paying off their loans. As a result, the 2019 data better reflects the actual state of student loan delinquency rates.

The analysis found that borrowers in coastal states tend to have the most student loan debt. While borrowers in California and Oregon have average student loan debts above $35,000, those in the South and East Coast states like Maryland, New York, Georgia, and Virginia have even higher debt burdens.

Here are the states with the most student loan debt per borrower:

15. Colorado

Denver, Colorado
EdgeofReason / Shutterstock.com
  • Average student loan debt per borrower: $34,800
  • Share of borrowers 90+ days delinquent: 13.0%
  • Total number of borrowers: 824,300
  • Total number of college graduates: 1,768,000
  • Total student loan debt: $28.7 billion

14. Delaware

Wilmington, Delaware
mandritoiu / Shutterstock.com
  • Average student loan debt per borrower: $35,000
  • Share of borrowers 90+ days delinquent: 14.1%
  • Total number of borrowers: 132,900
  • Total number of college graduates: 236,461
  • Total student loan debt: $4.7 billion

13. North Carolina

Chapel Hill, North Carolina from above
Grindstone Media Group / Shutterstock.com
  • Average student loan debt per borrower: $35,000
  • Share of borrowers 90+ days delinquent: 16.3%
  • Total number of borrowers: 1,337,200
  • Total number of college graduates: 2,429,699
  • Total student loan debt: $46.8 billion

12. New Jersey

Jersey City, New Jersey
f11photo / Shutterstock.com
  • Average student loan debt per borrower: $35,000
  • Share of borrowers 90+ days delinquent: 12.2%
  • Total number of borrowers: 1,366,000
  • Total number of college graduates: 2,692,344
  • Total student loan debt: $47.8 billion

11. Mississippi

Jackson, Mississippi
Rex Wholster / Shutterstock.com
  • Average student loan debt per borrower: $35,200
  • Share of borrowers 90+ days delinquent: 22.1%
  • Total number of borrowers: 417,900
  • Total number of college graduates: 462,014
  • Total student loan debt: $14.7 billion

10. South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Average student loan debt per borrower: $35,500
  • Share of borrowers 90+ days delinquent: 18.7%
  • Total number of borrowers: 738,600
  • Total number of college graduates: 1,099,135
  • Total student loan debt: $26.2 billion

9. Oregon

Bridge over Willamette River, Oregon
JPL Designs / Shutterstock.com
  • Average student loan debt per borrower: $35,600
  • Share of borrowers 90+ days delinquent: 15.2%
  • Total number of borrowers: 569,800
  • Total number of college graduates: 1,071,504
  • Total student loan debt: $20.3 billion

8. Alabama

Birmingham, Alabama
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Average student loan debt per borrower: $35,600
  • Share of borrowers 90+ days delinquent: 19.1%
  • Total number of borrowers: 606,700
  • Total number of college graduates: 920,353
  • Total student loan debt: $21.6 billion

7. California

Stanford University
turtix / Shutterstock.com
  • Average student loan debt per borrower: $35,600
  • Share of borrowers 90+ days delinquent: 14.1%
  • Total number of borrowers: 4,115,000
  • Total number of college graduates: 9,855,894
  • Total student loan debt: $146.5 billion

6. Illinois

Sorbis / Shutterstock.com
  • Average student loan debt per borrower: $35,900
  • Share of borrowers 90+ days delinquent: 12.8%
  • Total number of borrowers: 1,757,500
  • Total number of college graduates: 3,280,283
  • Total student loan debt: $63.1 billion

5. New York

Cornell University
Spiroview Inc / Shutterstock.com
  • Average student loan debt per borrower: $36,200
  • Share of borrowers 90+ days delinquent: 11.1%
  • Total number of borrowers: 2,710,400
  • Total number of college graduates: 5,490,898
  • Total student loan debt: $98.1 billion

4. Virginia

Richmond, Virginia
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Average student loan debt per borrower: $36,600
  • Share of borrowers 90+ days delinquent: 13.3%
  • Total number of borrowers: 1,176,400
  • Total number of college graduates: 2,430,864
  • Total student loan debt: $43.1 billion

3. Florida

Ilya Images / Shutterstock.com
  • Average student loan debt per borrower: $36,700
  • Share of borrowers 90+ days delinquent: 17.3%
  • Total number of borrowers: 2,617,700
  • Total number of college graduates: 4,941,169
  • Total student loan debt: $96.1 billion

2. Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Average student loan debt per borrower: $39,700
  • Share of borrowers 90+ days delinquent: 18.2%
  • Total number of borrowers: 1,603,900
  • Total number of college graduates: 2,404,931
  • Total student loan debt: $63.7 billion

1. Maryland

Annapolis, Maryland
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Average student loan debt per borrower: $41,000
  • Share of borrowers 90+ days delinquent: 14.1%
  • Total number of borrowers: 887,400
  • Total number of college graduates: 1,795,205
  • Total student loan debt: $36.4 billion

Methodology & detailed findings

College student studying
Jacob Lund / Shutterstock.com

The student loan debt data used in this study is from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Consumer Credit Panel. Researchers chose to use 2019 data (instead of 2020 data) since reporting changes in 2020 stemming from COVID-19 forbearance programs resulted in substantial drops in delinquency rates that were not the result of individuals paying off their loans. As a result, it was determined that the 2019 numbers better reflected the actual state of student loan delinquency rates.

States were ordered based on the average student loan debt per borrower. In the event of a tie, the state with the greater amount of total student loan debt was ranked higher. Data on the number of college graduates by state is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
9 Indestructible Products That Are Worth the Price
9 Indestructible Products That Are Worth the Price

If you’re willing to pay a little more for these products, you may never have to shop for another again.

10 Times You’re Right to Be a Cheapskate
10 Times You’re Right to Be a Cheapskate

Clever shoppers can save money without sacrificing quality. Here is how to do it.

Have You Heard of This Best Place to Retire in 2020?
Have You Heard of This Best Place to Retire in 2020?

The best place to retire in America is one you likely are not familiar with.

7 Reasons Not to Move When You Retire
7 Reasons Not to Move When You Retire

Sunny skies and warm breezes sound great. But in reality, you might be better off retiring closer to home.

The 5 Most Expensive U.S. States for Retirees
The 5 Most Expensive U.S. States for Retirees

If you have or expect to have a modest retirement income, you may want to avoid spending your golden years here.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

15 Free Streaming Services to Watch While Stuck at Home
15 Free Streaming Services to Watch While Stuck at Home

These free movie streaming sites offer thousands of movies and TV shows, including recent releases and beloved classics. If you love free movies, online sites are where you need to look for the best list of features that are just one easy click away.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?
Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?

The rules are complicated when it comes to eligibility for survivors benefits.

27 Things You Should Never Pay For — and How to Get Them for Free
27 Things You Should Never Pay For — and How to Get Them for Free

When you know the tricks, you can save big on all kinds of useful things that others pay for.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s
10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s

From snacks to sweets to side dishes, stock your cart with these time-tested favorites on your next TJ’s run.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

The Worst Day of the Year to Buy a Used Car
The Worst Day of the Year to Buy a Used Car

If you need a new set of wheels, avoid shopping on this day.

10 Ways Your Income Taxes Will Be Different in 2021
10 Ways Your Income Taxes Will Be Different in 2021

Filing your taxes will be different in 2021 due to coronavirus legislation and inflation adjustments.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.