10 States Where Graduates Have the Highest Student Loan Debt

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Did you (or do you) have student loans? These days, most people who attend college end up taking some type of financial aid. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “from academic years 2006–07 to 2011–12, the percentage of first-time, full-time undergraduate students at 4-year degree-granting institutions receiving any financial aid increased from 75 to 85 percent.”

This means, only 15 percent of first-time, full-time university students were attending college and paying without any form of financial aid (grants, loans, etc.). Most people cannot afford to foot the bill for a college education without any assistance from federal aid programs. All in all, 71 percent of students graduated their university during the 2012 school year with student debt.

With so many people leaving college tens of thousands of dollars in debt, many students try and strategically map out their education and careers during (or even before) college. We’re seeing more and more students leaning toward programs like engineering and computer science, as data indicates these degrees are among the highest paying. During the year 2011, engineering bachelor’s degrees grew by 5.6 percent to over 83,000. From 1995 to 2012, the number of natural sciences and mathematics bachelor’s degrees awarded grew by over 50 percent — with 93,443 degrees conferred during the 1995 through 1996 school year, and 141,354 degrees conferred during the 2011 through 2012 school year. Good old fashioned business degrees still seem to be among the most popular, though.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

No matter what type of degree a student obtains, of course there is always that possibility he or she will have a hard time finding employment. Economic conditions, location, job market, and even sheer luck can play a role in a student’s ability to find a high-paying job immediately after college.

For those who don’t find a job, paying back these loans on schedule is near-impossible. Especially, when loans reach into the $30,000, $40,000, or even $50,000 range. Here are the states where the average student debt is the highest, as of 2012. This data is from Projectonstudentdebt.org.

1. Delaware: $33,649 of student debt
2. New Hampshire: $32,698
3. Pennsylvania: $31,675
4. Minnesota: $31,497
5. Rhode Island: $31,156
6. Iowa: $29,456
7. Maine: $29,352
8. New Jersey: $29,287
9. Ohio: $29,037
10. Michigan: $28,840

“The statewide average debt levels for the Class of 2012 vary widely among the states, but most of the same states appear at the high and low ends of the spectrum as in previous years. We base state averages on the best available college-level data, which were reported voluntarily by 1,075 public and private nonprofit four-year colleges for the Class of 2012…As in past years, high-debt states are mainly in the Northeast and Midwest, with low-debt states mainly in the West and South,” the organization reports.

Want to compare your debt to the average for your state? Here is the average student loan debt for each of the 50 states.
*data is unavailable for North Dakota and Hawaii

By Erika Rawes// Data source: Projectonstudentdebt.org

By Erika Rawes// Data source: Projectonstudentdebt.org

We do notice some of the higher income states at the top of the list, but this does not seem to be too much of a contributing factor. New Hampshire — the state ranking second-highest in student debt — has a median income of $67,819. New Jersey ($66,692) has a median income that’s much higher than the nationwide benchmark as well.

On the other hand, some of the other states on the top 10 list, like Delaware, Rhode Island, Maine, and Ohio have median incomes near or below the benchmark.

The states on the top 10 list do, however, house some of the colleges identified as “high-debt” schools by the Project on Student Debt Organization. “Most high-debt public colleges enroll relatively high proportions of low-income students. In contrast, at most high-debt private nonprofit colleges, low-income enrollment is relatively low,” the organization explains.

Choosing an appropriate college and degree program is certainly a balancing act. You have to decide what you can afford now, and decide how much money you want to borrow against your future, while still being realistic about your current and future earnings capabilities.

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