Go to college here and you'll rack up $36,350 in debt

Key Points
  • New Hampshire grads have the most debt, with an average of $36,350 per student.
  • Those from Utah have an average debt of under $20,000.
  • Debt should only be one factor in deciding what college you'll attend.
University of New Hampshire
drocpsu | Flickr

Where you attend college has a big impact on how much debt you'll end up with.

New Hampshire graduates leave school with the most debt: an average of $36,350 per student. Those from Utah, on the other hand, have an average debt of under $20,000, according to a new study.

"There is a tremendous variation in the likelihood of taking out debt and average debt depending on the state where you go to college and the specific college you attend," said Diane Cheng, associate research director at The Institute for College Access & Success, the organization that did the study.

Although debt should only be one factor in deciding what college you'll attend, the findings can help you narrow down where you should study. (Click on graphic below to enlarge.)

ONE TIME USE: High and low debt states

Another finding that might have you start Googling "colleges in Utah," is that just 43 percent of Utah graduates had any debt. For comparison, 77 percent of new graduates coming out of West Virginia were in debt.

How much debt a student accrues has a lot to do with the cost of tuition, Cheng said.

For example, in New Hampshire, where student debt is on average the highest of any state, 60 percent of graduates attend private colleges compared with just 30 percent of students nationally.

Students are under pressure to take out more loans, of course, when they're facing a higher tuition.

The lower price tag at Utah's schools helps to explain why debt figures are relatively low there. While the average private college in the U.S. costs around $34,000 a year for tuition, it's just $9,000 in Utah.

Brigham Young University
Source: Brigham Young University

"Another striking thing about Utah is that students are taking out less private loans," Cheng said.

Indeed, just 3 percent of students in Utah take out nonfederal loans versus a national average of 10 percent. "For students who need to borrow to cover college costs, federal loans are the options to turn to first," Cheng said.

Federal student loans are preferable to private loans, Cheng said, because they offer more protections like fixed interest rates and income-based repayment plans. "With private loans, you're at the mercy of your lender," she said.

The study looked at the colleges where students take out the most private loans. Turns out that 34 of the 100 schools where students take out the most private loans are saturated in one state: Pennsylvania.

You can check out this map to see the average student debt per state.