A graduate at the 2014 commencement for the University of Maryland at College Park. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/The Baltimore Sun)

If you have a candidate for Best State, e-mail reid.wilson@washpost.com.

When President Obama signed an executive order this past week to allow millions of student-loan borrowers to cap payments at 10 percent of their monthly income, he addressed the largest pile of debt burdening Americans: Collectively, we hold more than $1 trillion in student loan debt, more than all the credit card debt in the United States.

“It has become clearer and clearer how important higher education is to our economic future,” White House domestic policy adviser Cecilia Muñoz said Tuesday. “It has also never been more expensive.”

But in Maryland, public university tuition has risen at a slower rate than in any other state.

The average year at a public four-year college in Maryland cost an in-state student $18,094, including tuition, fees, room and board, in the 2012-2013 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, a division of the Department of Education. That’s about 47 percent higher than the $12,332 a student paid for the 2002-2003 school year.

(The Washington Post)

Montana, Wyoming and Ohio kept their costs low, too, with increases between 50 and 60 percent over the decade. But in-state college costs more than doubled in seven states. In New Hampshire, costs spiked from $9,415 to $24,705 — a 162 percent increase.

A big part of Maryland’s success comes from a four-year tuition freeze, which Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) implemented in 2007. Every year since, the legislature has capped tuition hikes at just 3 percent a year. Between his first budget, in fiscal year 2008, and his latest, for 2015, the governor also increased higher-education funding by 34 percent, to $1.4 billion, O’Malley spokeswoman Nina Smith said, easing financial pressure on state schools. The extra money came from other parts of the budget and from higher taxes. More than 6,000 government jobs have been trimmed, and the O’Malley administration has cut $9.4 billion from the budget during his tenure. The state also increased sales, gas, corporate income and cigarette taxes.

Maryland public colleges were the eighth most expensive in the country when O’Malley took office ; today, they are the 27th most expensive.

The rapid rise, even in states that have held tuition relatively low, underscores the soaring cost of college. In the 2002-2003 school year, the cost of in-state tuition, room and board was less than $10,000 in 32 states. Now, no states fit that price point, and only Utah and Wyoming offer a year of college for less than $12,500. Students in Arizona, Kentucky, Alabama, Hawaii, Louisiana, New Hampshire and Illinois saw their costs more than double.

Perhaps, in the next budget cycle, Maryland could offer those states an advanced course.

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How America became uncompetitive and unequal

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My sister Esther inspired “The Fault in Our Stars.” The movie is her sequel.

Book review: “Do Fathers Matter?,” on the science of fatherhood

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