By Brandon Ballenger
This map shows average student loan debt and student loan default rates in the United States when your cursor hovers over a state. The table below shows a ranking of states by their average student loan debt. Explore, then see our conclusions below.
We used debt figures from The Institute for College Access & Success’s report, “Student debt and the class of 2013” (released Nov. 2014) and default figures from the U.S. Department of Education’s “FY 2011 3-Year Official Cohort Default Rates.” (released July 2014)
Some of the states with the highest average debt, such as New Hampshire and Rhode Island, have among the lowest default rates. The reverse is also true — New Mexico and Arizona have the highest default rates, yet some of the lowest average debt.
Why? It may be because wealthier students can afford to attend prestigious New England schools and have less difficulty in repaying the debt, while poorer students seek the cheapest schools yet still struggle to pay the lower balances.
Tuition rates support this theory — New Mexico had one of the lowest average tuition rates in 2013 at $6,190. New Hampshire had the highest, at $14,712. It also makes sense that average debt is higher in places with many out-of-state students: They usually pay higher tuition rates.