Oklahoma's college students carry the eighth-lowest average student debt, according to a new report.
The Project on Student Success, an initiative headed by the nonprofit Institute for College Access and Success, released its Class of 2011 report Oct. 18. The report is the organization's seventh annual survey on the level of student debt for recent graduates from four-year public and private colleges.
The report includes the 10 states where students carry the most debt and the 10 states where students owe the least. According to the report, Oklahoma's 2011 college graduates left school with $20,897 in student debt on average, placing the state in eighth place on the report's low-debt states list.
Southern and Western states fared best in the report, making up nearly the entire low-debt list. Topping that list was Utah, where students held just $17,227 in student debt. Hawaii, California, Arizona and Nevada followed just behind Utah.
Northeastern and Midwestern states dominated the report's high-debt list. New Hampshire topped that list, with an average student debt of $32,440. Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Connecticut rounded out the top five.
According to the report, 53 percent of Oklahoma's college students graduated with at least some student debt in 2011, placing it 38th from the highest. New Hampshire topped that list, with 75 percent of all college students graduating with some debt.
Oklahoma higher education Chancellor Glen Johnson said the ranking is consistent with how the state has fared in other college affordability rankings.
Johnson cited a U.S. Chamber of Commerce report released earlier this year that ranked Oklahoma the seventh-most affordable public higher education system in the nation.
A number of Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education initiatives are in place to ensure college affordability, Johnson said, including the Oklahoma College Assistance Program.
That program offers financial literacy and student loan management help to college students. The program has been successful in helping students address their student loans, keeping them manageable and avoiding defaults, Johnson said.
“It's something that we place a lot of emphasis on,” he said.