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States with the Most Student Loan Debt

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As of the fourth quarter of 2017, total student loan debt in the U.S. hit a record high of $1.38 trillion, up 152% over the past 10 years. For reference, total household debt only grew 6% over that same time period, according to data from The New York Fed. Outside of mortgages, student loans are now the largest source of household debt for Americans, greater than auto loans ($1.22 trillion) or credit cards ($834 billion).

At an aggregate level, it’s clear that more education leads to lower unemployment and higher earnings. However, decisions after graduation regarding occupation, industry, and location, among others, can have big impacts on the return-on-investment of a given degree. This is why, despite the benefits that a bachelor’s or advanced degree might offer in the workplace at a national-level, many individuals in the U.S. are currently unable to meet their student loan debt obligations. According to The New York Fed, 9.2% of student loans are currently 90+ days delinquent or in default, but the results vary widely by state. In Mississippi, that number is close to 17%, whereas in Massachusetts, it’s just under 7.5%.

To see just how much student loan debt varies by location, researchers at Credit Sesame analyzed debt statistics from The New York Fed and demographic and earnings data from the American Community Survey. Rather than looking just at total (or per-capita) student loan debt balances by state, Credit Sesame calculated debt-to-earnings ratios (debt as a percentage of earnings) for college graduates. States with low debt-to-earnings ratios have lower student loan debt burdens than those with high debt-to-earnings ratios. Here are the states with the most (and least) student loan debt.

Methodology

Debt statistics used in this analysis were sourced from the 4Q17 Federal Reserve Bank of New York, State-Level Household Debt Statistics dataset. Educational attainment and earnings data were sourced from the 2016 American Community Survey (ACS) 1-Year Estimates, Educational Attainment file. For each state, the Average debt for graduates was calculated by dividing the Student loan debt balance per capita (New York Fed) by the Percent of population w/ a bachelor’s degree or higher (ACS). The Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates was calculated by dividing the Average debt for graduates (calculated above) by the Median annual earnings for bachelor’s degree holders (ACS). The resulting statistic was used to rank states, with higher debt-to-income ratios corresponding to more debt. Percent of of loans delinquent/in default was also sourced from the New York Fed, and includes student loan debt balance that is 90+ days delinquent and in default.

States with the Most (and Least) Student Loan Debt

51. California

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.22
  • Average debt for graduates: $13,070
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 10.34%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $60,121
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $30,231
  • of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 32.9%

50. Massachusetts

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.23
  • Average debt for graduates: $13,724
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 7.44%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $60,503
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $35,003
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 42.7%

49. Hawaii

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.23
  • Average debt for graduates: $11,348
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 10.21%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $49,440
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $31,361
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 31.9%

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48. Washington

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.23
  • Average debt for graduates: $13,476
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 9.75%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $58,262
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $32,077
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 35.1%

47. New Jersey

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.24
  • Average debt for graduates: $14,741
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 9.63%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $62,300
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $31,941
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 38.6%

46. Connecticut

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.24
  • Average debt for graduates: $14,663
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 9.84%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $61,257
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $35,458
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 38.6%

45. Wyoming

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.25
  • Average debt for graduates: $11,845
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 9.23%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $47,322
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $31,491
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 27.1%

44. Virginia

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.25
  • Average debt for graduates: $14,278
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 10.40%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $56,324
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $30,524
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 38.1%

43. Alaska

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.27
  • Average debt for graduates: $13,750
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 10.49%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $51,665
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $32,063
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 29.6%

42. Vermont

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.27
  • Average debt for graduates: $11,319
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 8.29%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $42,338
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $31,471
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 36.4%

41. Maryland

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.27
  • Average debt for graduates: $16,412
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 10.83%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $61,049
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $32,982
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 39.3%

40. Wisconsin

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.27
  • Average debt for graduates: $13,661
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 9.54%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $50,323
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $31,233
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 29.5%

39. Rhode Island

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.28
  • Average debt for graduates: $14,780
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 10.44%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $52,045
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $32,759
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 34.1%

38. New York

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.28
  • Average debt for graduates: $16,190
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 9.15%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $56,868
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $30,742
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 35.7%

37. Colorado

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.29
  • Average debt for graduates: $14,912
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 11.28%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $51,136
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $31,515
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 39.9%

36. Illinois

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.30
  • Average debt for graduates: $16,353
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 9.78%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $55,161
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $30,526
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 34.0%

35. Delaware

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.30
  • Average debt for graduates: $16,290
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 10.22%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $54,225
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $31,751
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 31.0%

34. Texas

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.31
  • Average debt for graduates: $16,401
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 11.32%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $52,967
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $27,774
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 28.9%

33. Minnesota

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.31
  • Average debt for graduates: $17,213
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 9.37%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $54,749
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $31,535
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 34.8%

32. New Hampshire

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.32
  • Average debt for graduates: $16,366
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 9.37%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $51,823
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $32,290
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 36.6%

31. District of Columbia

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.32
  • Average debt for graduates: $21,127
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 9.14%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $65,886
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $30,311
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 56.8%

30. Kansas

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.33
  • Average debt for graduates: $15,457
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 13.29%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $46,772
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $28,685
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 32.8%

29. Arizona

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.34
  • Average debt for graduates: $17,301
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 12.73%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $50,479
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $27,708
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 28.9%

28. Nebraska

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.34
  • Average debt for graduates: $15,924
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 8.72%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $46,260
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $30,482
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 31.4%

27. North Carolina

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.35
  • Average debt for graduates: $16,382
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 12.74%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $47,143
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $26,922
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 30.4%

26. New Mexico

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.35
  • Average debt for graduates: $14,890
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 13.91%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $42,021
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $25,622
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 27.2%

25. Oregon

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.35
  • Average debt for graduates: $16,636
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 11.67%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $46,942
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $29,816
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 32.7%

24. Montana

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.36
  • Average debt for graduates: $14,129
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 10.38%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $39,650
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $26,475
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 31.0%

23. North Dakota

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.36
  • Average debt for graduates: $16,858
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 7.58%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $46,865
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $32,689
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 29.6%

22. Utah

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.36
  • Average debt for graduates: $17,147
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 9.22%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $47,164
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $30,923
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 32.6%

21. Oklahoma

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.37
  • Average debt for graduates: $16,468
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 15.33%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $44,977
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $28,144
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 25.2%

20. Nevada

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.37
  • Average debt for graduates: $17,191
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 14.63%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $46,908
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $30,968
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 23.5%

19. Iowa

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.37
  • Average debt for graduates: $17,817
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 11.49%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $48,207
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $31,515
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 28.4%

18. Florida

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.37
  • Average debt for graduates: $16,783
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 9.35%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $45,031
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $26,129
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 28.6%

17. Pennsylvania

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.37
  • Average debt for graduates: $19,091
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 11.15%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $51,199
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $30,508
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 30.8%

16. Maine

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.39
  • Average debt for graduates: $16,977
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 9.35%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $43,559
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $27,934
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 30.1%

15. Michigan

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.39
  • Average debt for graduates: $19,823
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 12.50%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $50,821
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $27,202
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 28.3%

14. Alabama

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.39
  • Average debt for graduates: $18,866
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 13.87%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $48,304
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $27,144
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 24.7%

13. Tennessee

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.40
  • Average debt for graduates: $18,238
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 13.78%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $46,065
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $27,292
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 26.1%

12. Missouri

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.41
  • Average debt for graduates: $18,526
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 13.58%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $45,701
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $29,902
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 28.5%

11. Indiana

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.42
  • Average debt for graduates: $20,273
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 13.94%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $48,790
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $30,846
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 25.6%

10. Kentucky

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.42
  • Average debt for graduates: $19,786
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 15.40%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $47,610
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $28,372
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 23.4%

9. South Dakota

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.42
  • Average debt for graduates: $17,578
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 11.18%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $42,054
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $30,297
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 28.9%

8. Idaho

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.42
  • Average debt for graduates: $17,319
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 12.19%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $41,343
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $27,114
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 27.6%

7. Ohio

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.42
  • Average debt for graduates: $21,309
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 13.49%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $50,830
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $30,230
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 27.5%

6. Arkansas

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.42
  • Average debt for graduates: $19,375
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 14.44%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $45,963
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $26,629
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 22.4%

5. Georgia

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.43
  • Average debt for graduates: $22,033
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 13.05%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $50,962
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $27,706
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 30.5%

4. South Carolina

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.44
  • Average debt for graduates: $20,478
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 13.91%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $46,083
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $27,031
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 27.2%

3. Louisiana

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.46
  • Average debt for graduates: $21,197
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 13.37%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $46,163
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $27,996
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 23.4%

2. West Virginia

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.49
  • Average debt for graduates: $20,577
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 16.38%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $42,318
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $26,122
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 20.8%

1. Mississippi

  • Debt-to-earnings ratio for graduates: 0.60
  • Average debt for graduates: $25,183
  • Percent of loans delinquent/in default: 16.84%
  • Median annual earnings (bachelor’s degree): $42,130
  • Median annual earnings (high school degree only): $26,693
  • Percent of population w/ bachelor’s degree or higher: 21.8%
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