A college degree is still immensely valuable in America, boosting lifetime earnings for people that have one. But for many students, the trade-off for getting a degree is an enormous pile of student-loan debt.
This interactive map, built by Debt.com, a personal finance website, displays data by state on the average student debt load of graduating seniors from colleges in each state (so if an Arizona resident attended college in California, her debt statistics would be included in California's averages). Darker shades of blue imply larger student loan burdens, while lighter shades imply smaller burdens.
When you scroll over the map, you can also see rates of default on student debt. This is the percentage of graduates who default on their student loans within three years of graduating.
The map was created using data from the Department of Education, College Board, a college membership association, and The Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit that works to make college more affordable.
New Hampshire has the highest average student-loan debt burden in the nation, with graduates having an average of $32,795 in debt. On the other end of the spectrum is New Mexico, where graduates have the lowest debt in the nation, with $18,656 on average. Nevertheless, New Mexico is home to one of the worst default rates in the country, at 20.8 percent.
Six of the top 10 most indebted states are found in the Northeast. Seven of the states with the lowest amounts of student debt are found in the western half of the country.
There's no one reason why some states have higher debt and default rates than others. The numbers are influenced by the number of students paying out-of-state tuition, the ratio of public to private schools in each state, and other factors.
It's worth noting that these figures only include public and private non-profit schools. They do not include for-profit schools, which for the most part did not report 2013 debt figures to the The Institute for College Access & Success. Grads of for-profit colleges typically owe 43 percent more in loans than graduates of public and private non-profit schools, according to the latest data from that group.
How does your state stack up on debt?