N.H. students have highest college debt burden

New Hampshire college graduates are leaving school with the highest level of education-related debt in the country, according to the California-based Project on Student Debt.

According to data reported by 1,400 college students from four-year colleges and universities across the country, the average overall student debt of New Hampshire’s 2005 graduates was $22,793.

Graduates of New Hampshire’s state universities left school with $21,469 in student debt, while graduates of the state’s private institutions graduated with average debt totaling $24,672.

According to the report, the average debt level of graduating students varies greatly from state to state, from New Hampshire’s high to Utah’s low of $11,709. Financial aid policies and tuition rates are only two of the variables contributing to the differing debt levels, the organization said. Student income profiles, institutional aid, locale of institutions, availability of low-cost community colleges and their transfer policies, local cost of living, local wage levels of working students and length of time needed to complete degree requirements all play into the overall debt assumed by area students.

Graduates from throughout New England ranked high for overall student debt. Rhode Island ranked fourth, with average student debt of $20,798; Maine was seventh, with average debt of $20,239; Vermont ranked 11th, with average debt of $19,482; Connecticut ranked 12th, with average debt of $19,440; and Massachusetts ranked 21st, with average student debt of $18,169.

Statewide averages were calculated using individuals’ school reports of the total federal and private student loans taken out by seniors while attending the institution. Prior borrowing by transferring students or private loans were not included in the study. – TRACIE STONE

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