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Student loan borrowers in North Dakota owe an average of $29,246 in federal and private student loan debt, 20% less than the U.S. average of $36,689. About 100,000 North Dakotans have student loan debt, and their monthly payment is $212, on average.

Even though North Dakota offers its State Grant Program to first-time undergraduates as well as several scholarship programs and tuition waivers, some students will still need to borrow to cover college funding gaps. Here’s what you need to know about North Dakota student loans.

North Dakota student loans: Borrowers owe average of $29,246 in federal, private debt

North Dakota student loan borrowers owe $29,246 on average, including private and federal student loan debt. That’s second-lowest among the 50 states.

North Dakota student debt overview
Average balance $29,246
Total outstanding debt $3.2 billion
Number of borrowers 0.1 million
Average total monthly payment $212
Note: Averages include federal and private student loan debt.

On average, North Dakota students owe less than their peers in all other states, except for Nebraska ($28,684). In comparison, students in neighboring states (Minnesota, Montana and South Dakota) owe, on average, $30,811 when they finish their undergraduate degrees.

Here’s the average student loan debt in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, to better understand how North Dakota compares:

5 things to know about going to college in North Dakota

  • All North Dakota high school students are eligible for the State Grant Program: The North Dakota State Grant Program offers up to $1,100 a semester or $733 a quarter, depending on the school and the student’s enrollment status. Recipients must meet residential and high school graduation requirements.
  • North Dakota offers a variety of scholarships: In addition to the State Grant Program, North Dakota has scholarships for students pursuing a university education, as well as those attending career and technical schools. There is also the ND Scholars Program, which pays full tuition for high-achieving students, as well as the ND Indian Scholarship, which assists students with Native American heritage.
  • Tuition and fee waivers are available for certain groups: North Dakota provides tuition and fee waivers to specific groups, including law enforcement officers, National Guard members, older adults and children whose parents were prisoners of war or meet other requirements related to military service.
  • The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required for the State Grant Program: To receive access to the State Grant Program, students will need to fill out the FAFSA each year. Applying early is important, since state funds might be limited and are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Other programs may need additional applications: You might need an additional application to qualify for scholarships and waivers. You’ll need to contact your campus to determine your eligibility and apply.

Loan repayment programs for North Dakota residents

When repaying North Dakota student loans, federal programs provide opportunities for repayment. In 2019, certain state student loan forgiveness programs, including the State Teacher Shortage Loan Forgiveness Program, were discontinued by the state Legislature. However, in that same year, the Legislature did appropriate funds to develop the ND Career Builders Scholarship & Loan Repayment program for those in “high-need and emerging occupations.”

National Health Service Corps

The federal Health Resources & Services Administration offers loan repayment through National Health Service Corps jobs. If you’re a qualified health care professional and serve at least two years in a health care shortage area, you could receive up to $50,000 in loan repayment assistance based on your profession and how long you work.

ND Career Builders Scholarship & Repayment program

Graduates who complete a degree or certificate program in a high-demand career field can apply for loan repayment as part of the ND Career Builders Scholarship & Repayment program. Graduates can receive up to $5,667 a year (for a maximum of $17,000) for student loans, including federal and private loans. However, applications must be submitted jointly by the graduate and their employer, and private matching funds must be available.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

PSLF is available to those who work for a qualifying nonprofit or government organization. After making 120 qualifying payments while working for your employer, you can apply to have your direct federal student loans balance repaid. This program works in conjunction with income-driven repayment.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness

The federal government offers the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program, which can cancel up to $5,000 or $17,500 in federal student loan debt if you teach in a lower-income community for at least five years (the amount will depend on the subject taught). The Department of Education releases a list of qualifying areas each year.

North Dakota federal student loan borrowers younger than 25 owe less than national average — plus a look at payment status

How to refinance North Dakota student loans

In North Dakota, 4.3% of borrowers owe $100,000 or more in federal student loans. For those who owe such high amounts, student loan refinancing can be beneficial, particularly if they don’t qualify for a loan forgiveness program.

Refinancing your student loans is one way to deal with high student loan debt. With refinancing, you take out a new loan that’s large enough to pay off all your student loans. When you finish the process, you’ll have one interest rate and one payment. You can use a student loan payment calculator to review your potential savings.

Understand, though, that refinancing federal student loans turns them private, which means you’ll lose access to federal programs, including PSLF and income-driven repayment. While some private lenders offer hardship programs, they’re likely to have different requirements than federal programs and may not be as robust.

If you have both federal and private loans, you can choose to refinance your private student loans and consolidate the federal ones. This allows you to simplify your situation while maintaining benefits on your federal student loans.

Carefully consider your options and financial situation to determine how best to tackle your North Dakota student loans.


  • U.S. Department of Education data as of June 30, 2020
  • Anonymized My LendingTree June 2020 credit reports
  • Federal Reserve Bank of New York Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax as of June 2020

Because the latter data is from 2015, researchers estimated the increase in student loan debt per borrower in the state using statewide data from anonymized credit reports.

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