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.
- 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
- Average aid per recipient: $11,791
- Total aid: $5,580.8 million
- Number of recipients: 473,300
- Average aid per recipient: $11,646
- Total aid: $2,660.1 million
- Number of recipients: 228,400
- Average aid per recipient: $11,425
- Total aid: $5,478.6 million
- Number of recipients: 479,500
- 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.
- Average aid per recipient: $8,206
- Total aid: $604.8 million
- Number of recipients: 73,700
- Average aid per recipient: $8,653
- Total aid: $944.1 million
- Number of recipients: 109,100
- Average aid per recipient: $8,919
- Total aid: $132.0 million
- Number of recipients: 14,800
- Average aid per recipient: $8,978
- Total aid: $203.8 million
- Number of recipients: 22,700
- 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.
|Rank||State||Total disbursement (millions)||Recipients||Average financial aid per recipient|
|1||District of Columbia||$353.10||21,400||$16,500|
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.
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.
|Total disbursement (billions)||$24.34||$26.63||$43.65||$25.64|
|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.
|Rank||State||Recipients||% of applicants approved for student aid|
|31||District of Columbia||21,400||62%|
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.
|Rank||State||Recipients||% of FAFSA applicants that received grants|
|42||District of Columbia||11,800||34%|
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.
|Rank||State||Total disbursement (millions)||Recipients||Average federal loan amount per recipient|
|1||District of Columbia||$307.30||18,200||$16,885|
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.