The Texas Public Policy Foundation is pleased to release its second annual ranking of public higher education systems. Rankings are based on the student loan debt and earnings of recent college graduates. The higher a state’s graduates’ earnings and the lower their student loan debt, the higher the state’s ranking (see the methodology section for details). We conduct several different tests that compare student loan debt to college graduate earnings 2 years after graduation to determine which states are setting their students up for success and which states are saddling their students with excessive student loan debt.

Key Points

  • New data from the U.S. Department of Education reveal the typical earnings and student loan debt of recent college graduates.
  • We use these data to rank each state on the debt-to-earnings outcomes of their graduates.
  • The five highest performing states are North Dakota, Minnesota, Utah, Alaska, and California.
  • The five worst performing states are Tennessee, South Carolina, West Virginia, Louisiana, and Montana.
  • Associate degree programs do very well—41 states have more than 90% of graduates finishing at programs with excellent outcomes. No state achieves this at the bachelor’s degree level.