Student-Debt Rankings Show Higher-Ed in Washington Is a Relative Bargain

Still, student-loan debt has escalated rapidly across the state and nation over the past decade

May 3, 2019By Bill Conroy

Seattle, USA - March 16, 2016: Beautiful sunny day in Spring Campus of University of Washington, cherry trees bloom and many visitors enjoy Sakura in the Quad Square.

The state of Washington has the sixth-lowest average student-loan debt per borrower in the nation, according to a recent study analyzing 922 higher-education institutions nationwide.

The student-loan study, produced by, an online marketplace for student loans and refinancing, shows that the average debt per student borrower in Washington stood at $22,026 in 2017, up 23.8% since 2007.

Although that mark may seem high to the average Joe or Jane, its well-below the high mark in the study, recorded by Pennsylvania, where the average student-loan debt as of 2017 was $35,988, up a steep 51.3% since 2007. The lowest average among the states was posted by Utah, at $17,887, up 35.5% since 2007.

The astronomical increase in student-loan debt over the past decade has commanded national headlines and attention from politicians. A report this past December by Bloomberg points out that since the recession officially ended in June 2009, student-loan debt nationally has more than doubled, from $675 billion to $1.52 trillion as of this year, with 90 percent of that debt guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Education.

In a measure of the percentage of college graduates with debt as of 2017, Washington ranked 13th lowest (or 38th) among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in the study, at 51.5 percent, down from 2007, when 58.3 percent of the states college graduates had student-loan debt. Utah again earned the lowest score, with a 34.7 percent mark in the category as of 2017, and New Hampshire brought up the rear, ranking dead last with 74.2 percent of college graduates as of 2017 carrying student-loan debt.

A total of 15 Washington colleges and universities (both private and public institutions) were examined in the study, including the following area institutions: Seattle University; Seattle Pacific University; the University of Washington, Seattle; Northwest University, Kirkland; and the University of the Puget Sound, Tacoma. Following is a ranking of those institutions based on their 2017 average debt per borrower with the percentage increase from 2007 also reflected.

1.) University of Puget Sound (private), $34,791, up 25.84%

2.) Seattle University (private), $28,848, up 43.76%

3.) Seattle Pacific University (private), $28,646, up 20.68%

4.) Northwest University (private), $24,930, up 24.34%

5.) University of Washington (public), $19,880, up 23.48%

A lot can change over the course of a decade, the study states, and when it comes to student loan debt, most of that change has been in the negative direction.