Student Loans

States Getting The Most (and Least) Federal Student Aid - 2018 Report

We combed through federal student aid data to find which states received the most and least federal aid between 2015 and 2016.

As the cost of college tuition continues to increase, students throughout the U.S. seek financial aid from the federal government. To find out where students are most successful in securing aid, we took a look at the total dollar amount of loans and grants awarded to recipients in each state. According to the most recent data, the average federal aid per recipient in each state ranges between $8,206 and $16,500, showing a large disparity in the loans and grants awarded to residents in different states.

Key Findings

  • The federal government provided a total of $122.42 billion in student aid divided among 11,878,800 recipients. The average recipient received $10,306.
  • D.C. had the most federal aid than any U.S. locale per recipient between 2015 and 2016, at $16,500, although it had the third lowest number of recipients in the country.
  • Northeastern states had the most federal aid per recipient at $11,218, while western states had the lowest federal aid with $9,876.
  • In New Hampshire, FAFSA applicants were the most successful in being accepted for financial aid. 74% of all applicants received student aid. In contrast, only 47% of applicants in Alaska received federal aid.

We found that students across the country received, on average, $10,306 between the 2015 and 2016 school year. However, looking further into the data, we saw that there were significant differences in the amount of aid each state received and the number of applicants who received aid. D.C. recipients received the most financial aid, with an average of $16,500, while New Mexico recipients were only granted an average of $8,206, less than any other part of the country. Read more for the full federal student aid rankings.

Top 5 States with the Most Federal Student Aid

These states, including D.C., received the most federal student aid per recipient in the country. To calculate the average aid per recipient, we divided the total federal student aid the state received, made up of both loans and grants, and divided that by the number of recipients.

  • District of Columbia

    • Average aid per recipient: $16,500
    • Total aid: $353.1 million
    • Number of recipients: 21,400
  • Pennsylvania

    • Average aid per recipient: $11,791
    • Total aid: $5,580.8 million
    • Number of recipients: 473,300
  • Maryland

    • Average aid per recipient: $11,646
    • Total aid: $2,660.1 million
    • Number of recipients: 228,400
  • Illinois

    • Average aid per recipient: $11,425
    • Total aid: $5,478.6 million
    • Number of recipients: 479,500
  • New Jersey

    • Average aid per recipient: $11,391
    • Total aid: $4,072.3 million
    • Number of recipients: 357,500

Top 5 States with the Least Federal Student Aid

These state received the least amount of financial aid per recipient in the country. Although it is not included, it's worth noting that Puerto Rico received the least amount of federal aid per recipient compared to all the states, but received the most grants per recipient in the country.

  • New Mexico

    • Average aid per recipient: $8,206
    • Total aid: $604.8 million
    • Number of recipients: 73,700
  • Utah

    • Average aid per recipient: $8,653
    • Total aid: $944.1 million
    • Number of recipients: 109,100
  • Wyoming

    • Average aid per recipient: $8,919
    • Total aid: $132.0 million
    • Number of recipients: 14,800
  • North Dakota

    • Average aid per recipient: $8,978
    • Total aid: $203.8 million
    • Number of recipients: 22,700
  • Oklahoma

    • Average aid per recipient: $9,160
    • Total aid: $1,165.2 million
    • Number of recipients: 127,200

National Ranking of States with the Most Federal Student Aid

To see how each state compared, we included a national ranking of all 50 states, including D.C., and the average financial aid received per recipient.

RankStateTotal disbursement (millions)RecipientsAverage financial aid per recipient
24Alabama$1,821.80180,100$10,115
42Alaska$173.6018,200$9,538
30Arizona$2,289.30230,000$9,953
45Arkansas$1,028.00109,700$9,371
38California$13,737.201,397,400$9,831
17Colorado$1,984.40188,100$10,550
7Connecticut$1,604.80143,000$11,222
16Delaware$351.8033,300$10,565
1District of Columbia$353.1021,400$16,500
34Florida$7,534.70762,400$9,883
20Georgia$4,882.30471,100$10,364
15Hawaii$420.9039,800$10,575
46Idaho$573.2061,500$9,320
4Illinois$5,478.60479,500$11,426
40Indiana$2,338.40242,500$9,643
27Iowa$1,126.40112,300$10,030
35Kansas$1,039.20105,200$9,878
39Kentucky$1,568.90161,500$9,715
22Louisiana$1,733.60169,000$10,258
18Maine$516.6049,500$10,436
3Maryland$2,660.10228,400$11,647
11Massachusetts$2,855.90263,100$10,855
19Michigan$4,190.70401,800$10,430
32Minnesota$2,248.20226,800$9,913
37Mississippi$1,294.70131,600$9,838
25Missouri$2,272.10225,000$10,098
26Montana$318.9031,600$10,092
33Nebraska$682.9069,000$9,897
41Nevada$786.5081,900$9,603
6New Hampshire$569.7050,600$11,259
5New Jersey$4,072.30357,500$11,391
51New Mexico$604.8073,700$8,206
9New York$8,511.20771,600$11,031
28North Carolina$3,908.80391,300$9,989
48North Dakota$203.8022,700$8,978
13Ohio$4,739.60441,500$10,735
47Oklahoma$1,165.20127,200$9,160
12Oregon$1,452.50135,200$10,743
2Pennsylvania$301.00473,300$11,791
36Rhode Island$1,585.1041,300$9,852
14South Carolina$406.90194,600$10,689
29South Dakota$2,080.1029,100$9,955
23Tennessee$289.70233,100$10,172
44Texas$2,371.10959,000$9,451
50Utah$9,063.40109,100$8,654
8Vermont$944.1020,100$11,149
10Virginia$224.10311,500$10,930
21Washington$3,404.80215,100$10,337
31West Virginia$2,223.5059,200$9,914
43Wisconsin$586.90212,600$9,490
49Wyoming$2,017.6014,800$8,919

States With the Most Federal Student Aid

A gradient map outlining the states with the most federal student aid per recipient can be found below. A darker color shade represents a higher amount of federal student aid. Read on for a breakdown of each region and the total amount of aid per recipient received.

States With the Most Federal Student Aid

The Northeast received the most federal aid, with an average of $11,218 per recipient. In contrast, the West had the lowest financial aid per recipient, averaging $9,876. Each recipient in the West received almost $1,400 less than those in the Northeast.

NortheastMidwestSouthWest
Total disbursement (billions)$24.34$26.63$43.65$25.64
Recipients2,170,0002,568,0004,323,7002,596,400
Average federal aid per recipient$11,218$10,369$10,096$9,876

States With the Most Successful Federal Student Aid Applicants

In order to receive federal student aid, you must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You may qualify for government loans, grants or a mix of both to help finance your education. However, not every applicant receives federal aid. To dive deeper into the differences between states, we looked at the success rate of FAFSA applicants in each state. New Hampshire had the most applicants accepted to receive aid for the 2015 to 2016 school year, while only 47% of Alaskan applicants received aid from the government. In all other states, more than 50% of applicants received loans and grants.

RankStateRecipients% of applicants approved for student aid
26Alabama180,10063%
51Alaska18,20047%
39Arizona230,00061%
33Arkansas109,70062%
49California1,397,40055%
21Colorado188,10065%
16Connecticut143,00067%
23Delaware33,30064%
31District of Columbia21,40062%
45Florida762,40059%
30Georgia471,10062%
24Hawaii39,80063%
19Idaho61,50065%
34Illinois479,50062%
43Indiana242,50059%
10Iowa112,30069%
13Kansas105,20067%
36Kentucky161,50062%
42Louisiana169,00060%
9Maine49,50069%
40Maryland228,40061%
4Massachusetts263,10070%
28Michigan401,80063%
2Minnesota226,80072%
35Mississippi131,60062%
25Missouri225,00063%
17Montana31,60066%
14Nebraska69,00067%
48Nevada81,90055%
1New Hampshire50,60072%
12New Jersey357,50068%
37New Mexico73,70062%
11New York771,60069%
27North Carolina391,30063%
5North Dakota22,70070%
20Ohio441,50065%
32Oklahoma127,20062%
44Oregon135,20059%
7Pennsylvania473,30069%
15Rhode Island41,30067%
29South Carolina194,60063%
3South Dakota29,10072%
47Tennessee233,10055%
41Texas959,00060%
18Utah109,10066%
8Vermont20,10069%
22Virginia311,50064%
50Washington215,10054%
38West Virginia59,20061%
6Wisconsin212,60070%
46Wyoming14,80057%

States Receiving the Most Grants Per Applicant

Generally, receiving a grant is preferable to a loan, as you don't have to pay back the awarded amount or pay interest. However, in order to qualify for most federal grants, you'll need to demonstrate exceptional financial need. Compared to the rest of the country, applicants in New Mexico received the most grants. Of all FAFSA applicants in this state, 46% received grants. In Alaska, only 27% of FAFSA applicants received a grant to finance their educations—the lowest percentage in the U.S.

RankStateRecipients% of FAFSA applicants that received grants
6Alabama121,40043%
51Alaska10,30027%
9Arizona156,20042%
5Arkansas75,50043%
17California1,025,60040%
36Colorado103,80036%
43Connecticut72,90034%
39Delaware18,50035%
42District of Columbia11,80034%
13Florida533,40041%
10Georgia313,00041%
16Hawaii25,30040%
3Idaho42,30045%
35Illinois276,80036%
38Indiana144,70035%
34Iowa58,40036%
21Kansas60,80039%
18Kentucky104,00040%
11Louisiana117,20041%
20Maine27,90039%
48Maryland122,40033%
45Massachusetts125,90033%
26Michigan239,70037%
37Minnesota112,00036%
4Mississippi94,30044%
22Missouri137,60039%
19Montana18,70039%
29Nebraska37,70037%
28Nevada55,40037%
50New Hampshire20,20029%
30New Jersey193,70037%
1New Mexico55,10046%
8New York477,90042%
7North Carolina263,10042%
49North Dakota09,90030%
27Ohio255,20037%
12Oklahoma84,70041%
24Oregon86,90038%
40Pennsylvania240,40035%
25Rhode Island23,30038%
14South Carolina126,50041%
41South Dakota14,30035%
33Tennessee153,30036%
15Texas648,60040%
2Utah75,00045%
47Vermont09,50033%
32Virginia178,00036%
44Washington133,70034%
23West Virginia36,80038%
31Wisconsin111,70037%
46Wyoming08,60033%

States Taking Out the Most Federal Student Loans

D.C. received the most in loans per recipient, with an average of $16,885, which is significantly more than the rest of the country. North Dakota students received the lowest dollar amount in loans, with only $8,755 per recipient. That is almost half of what D.C. recipients received in the 2015 to 2016 school year. Specifically among states, California had the highest dollar amount of loans per recipient at $13,371.

RankStateTotal disbursement (millions)RecipientsAverage federal loan amount per recipient
26Alabama$1,358.90127,800$10,633
28Alaska$138.6013,200$10,500
17Arizona$1,710.80153,600$11,138
48Arkansas$736.8079,300$9,291
2California$9,733.80728,000$13,371
19Colorado$1,615.70147,100$10,984
7Connecticut$1,346.50109,500$12,297
12Delaware$285.8025,100$11,386
1District of Columbia$307.3018,200$16,885
13Florida$5,575.20489,800$11,383
22Georgia$3,762.80349,700$10,760
4Hawaii$326.4025,900$12,602
49Idaho$413.7045,700$9,053
5Illinois$4,446.80353,500$12,579
40Indiana$1,813.20187,200$9,686
44Iowa$914.5095,800$9,546
36Kansas$817.3083,200$9,823
37Kentucky$1,180.30121,500$9,714
35Louisiana$1,282.80128,700$9,967
33Maine$412.8040,600$10,167
3Maryland$2,220.60172,300$12,888
14Massachusetts$2,395.80211,600$11,322
27Michigan$3,338.70315,200$10,592
39Minnesota$1,855.40191,500$9,689
34Mississippi$912.4090,500$10,082
30Missouri$1,772.00170,800$10,375
41Montana$247.7025,600$9,676
32Nebraska$549.7053,900$10,199
24Nevada$590.2055,400$10,653
21New Hampshire$500.9046,300$10,819
8New Jersey$3,314.40270,100$12,271
42New Mexico$403.9042,100$9,594
6New York$6,543.30521,400$12,549
18North Carolina$2,923.60264,200$11,066
51North Dakota$168.1019,200$8,755
29Ohio$3,810.50363,000$10,497
45Oklahoma$852.0089,400$9,530
15Oregon$1,135.50101,000$11,243
11Pennsylvania$4,687.80411,300$11,398
52Puerto Rico$687.0083,000$8,277
23Rhode Island$325.3030,500$10,666
25South Carolina$1,608.40151,200$10,638
46South Dakota$236.3025,100$9,414
20Tennessee$1,787.60164,900$10,841
31Texas$6,634.80650,000$10,207
43Utah$666.7069,500$9,593
16Vermont$190.9017,000$11,229
9Virginia$2,755.30232,700$11,841
10Washington$1,706.40148,400$11,499
38West Virginia$443.0045,700$9,694
50Wisconsin$1,621.90179,500$9,036
47Wyoming$101.0010,800$9,352

Methodology

Data for the amount of federal student aid by state was gathered from the Federal Student Aid division in the U.S. Department of Education. The figures were calculated using the 2015 to 2016 disbursements by location data, which included the dollar amount received for loans and grants as well as the number of recipients and applicants. The report includes Direct loans and grant volume but does not include disbursements from campus-based programs, such as federal Perkins, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant and Federal Work-Study program.

Sources:

Madison Miller

Madison is a Research Analyst at ValuePenguin and focuses on student loans and personal loans. She graduated from the University of Rochester with a B.A. in Financial Economics with a double minor in Business and Psychology.