States with the Most Student Debt

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The average senior graduating college in 2011 owed $26,600 in student debt, up 5% from the year before. According to a new report, published by higher education nonprofit The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), roughly two-thirds of the 2011 class had some amount of student debt.

Read: States with the Most Student Debt

Because tuition varies widely between the states, the location of the school can predict how much a student will owe. In Utah, average student debt for the class of 2011 was just $17,227. In New Hampshire, it was $32,440. Based on TICAS’ Student Debt and the Class of 2011 report, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 states where students had the most debt.

Most of the states with higher average student debt were located in the Northeast, which tends to have more students enroll in more expensive private institutions. Six of the 10 worst-off states were in the area.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., TICAS president Lauren Asher explained that the final price of college includes far more than tuition and fees. Students also incur costs for things like meals, transportation and books. As a result, for many of the states with the most student debt, these costs of living are often higher than the national average. This is another reason states in the Northeast tend to have more student debt.

The costs of attending state universities and colleges, where the vast majority of students in the United States go, are rising too. Schools have been forced to raise tuition as states cut their higher education budgets. In Texas, Governor Rick Perry has called for a four-year tuition freeze for state schools in light of the hikes. Public colleges and universities in other states are offering to do the same voluntarily — if they are compensated with additional funds from the government.

The type of loan students take out, Asher said, also determines the long-term costs of college. For the class of 2011, roughly a fifth of all student loan dollars were from private loan companies. These, Asher explained, have much higher interest rates and are harder to manage and pay off that federal government loans. “You’re really at the mercy of your lender if you hit hard times and you have a private loan.” At some of the schools in the states on our list, more than 40% of students had debt through private lenders.

Based on the report “Student Debt and the Class of 2011,” published recently by The Institute for College Access & Success, 24/7 Wall St. determined the 10 states in which college graduates had the highest levels of student debt. TICAS also provided data on the schools where graduates had the most debt, the percentage of students who owed money, and whom they borrowed from. We also considered data on educational attainment, median annual earnings and median income from the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as unemployment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These are the states with the most student debt.