Utah Students Hold Lowest Student Debt in the Nation

As the nation continues to see student loan debt climb, Utah has emerged as the leading state for reducing this burden. According to research by LendEDU, Utah’s students graduated on average with a debt burden of just $16,333—the lowest in the nation. This impressive feat was nearly $4,000 lower than second-place New Mexico and almost $25,000 better than last-place Connecticut. Utah also topped the country with the fewest share of graduates having student loan debt at 32 percent.

The rise in student debt poses a serious concern for those looking to gain a college degree, and the total outstanding student loan debt in 2020 has steadily climbed to 1.676 billion. Here in Utah however, we are doing our part to reverse the negative trends. 

Much of the state’s success on this front can be attributed to prudent decision-making by our institutions of higher learning. Through our universities’ relatively low cost of attendance and adequate student funding, Utah has managed to lower average student debt by 15.75 percent since 2019—also best in the nation. 

One of the core tenets of Governor Herbert’s time in office has been promoting the importance of higher education. In Utah, the benefits of a college degree are clear, as the median earnings for college graduates are 68 percent higher than non-graduates. Shrinking the financial barrier to entry for higher education is a critical part of ensuring our graduates have the skills necessary to compete in an increasingly global jobs market.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has further illustrated the need to pursue a higher education. During the height of economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic, college graduates were more likely to be inoculated from adverse effects than their counterparts without a degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall national unemployment in May was 13.3 percent, and workers with only a high school diploma had an even higher jobless rate of 15.3 percent. For college graduates, the rate was only 7.4 percent. Unsurprisingly, those with a higher education are more likely to not only earn more, but also remain in their positions during a recession.

Maintaining our lowest in the nation student debt will be of continued importance as we navigate economic revitalization. With this continued focus, Utah can expand its reputation for being a standard-bearer for economic strength and security.