USA TODAY - Rising levels of student debt have raised alarm bells in the minds of economists and recent college graduates alike. With a bachelor's degree virtually indispensable in today's workplace - and a master's necessary in many fields, as well - many people, be they fresh out of high school or not, have found themselves needing to a seek a higher education in order to pay the bills.
The problem is that these days, college is far from cheap. Tuition for a four-year college can cost easily more than $10,000 per year, ranging all the way up to $50,000 or even more for top-of-the-line institutions. With many inbound college students finding themselves strapped for cash, their only option - aside from obtaining federal aid - is to seek loans to cover the difference between the costs of college and living and any income they might obtain in the meantime. This can amount to a crippling debt load by the time students graduate.
However, student debt rates are not the same across the nation: In fact, there is a surprising amount of variance, according to numbers collected by College In Sight. The average graduate of a four-year institution (or higher) with student debt has less than $20,000 of debt in Utah or Arizona. Let's take a look at eight states at the other end of the spectrum, those with the highest amounts of student debt in the country.
If you are graduating with debt from a college in Vermont, you will have an average of $28,873 owed. That's right: even in a state home to small names like Middlebury College and Norwich University, student debt rates are still fantastically high. What's worse is that 63% of graduates - almost 2 out of every 3 outgoing students - are graduating with debt to their name.
We travel to the Midwest for the seventh spot on our list, which belongs to Ohio. With an average debt rate of $28,683 among those graduating with obligations to lenders, the home of Ohio State University is certainly not a cheap state in which to attend university. It might be appealing to root for the Buckeyes, but your pocketbook may not be such a huge fan of the prospect, especially with 68% of outgoing students bearing debts from their education.
Staying in the Midwest, we move on to Iowa, home of the Hawkeyes and the Cyclones. Getting closer to your Big 10 or Big 12 favorites for a few years is going to cost you: Graduates from the state who have borrowed come out with an average of $28,753 in debt. The percentage of students who are in debt has gone up, too, with 72% of those who attend college in the corn belt state turning to the bank for help pay for their tuition.
Jumping out East, the next state on the list is Connecticut, where the average indebted graduate owes $28,783 after completing college. It will certainly cost you a pretty penny to go to Yale, located in New Haven, and even the home of the Huskies, UConn, isn't exactly cheap, either. The good news is that more than a third of those graduating from the state are debt-free.
4. Rhode Island
We stay on the Eastern Seaboard for the fourth spot on the list, Rhode Island. Breaking the $29,000 mark with an average debt of $29,097 for those who are indebted, it certainly doesn't seem like it was inexpensive for Harry Potter star Emma Watson to make her foray into the world of American higher education at Brown University. Even schools like the Rhode Island School of Design and Roger Williams University can cause you to rack up the debt.
The bronze medal goes to Minnesota, the home of the Golden Gophers. The average graduate who isn't debt-free owes $29,793 to the bank. If you're looking for an option other than Walden or Capella universities in the state, you can try Carleton College; either way, it seems like there's no way to avoid tacking on extra debt if you're bound for the North Star State out of high school.
The penultimate spot on the list belongs to none other than Pennsylvania, where a graduate who is burdened by loans averages $29,959 in debt. There might be plenty of options to go to college in Pennsylvania - including Temple, Lehigh, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Pittsburgh - but the sheer number of prestigious schools hasn't helped debt levels of the outgoing students in the state. Another deadly statistic is the percent of graduates who have taken out student loans, which weighs in at 70%.
1. New Hampshire
The surprising top of the list goes to New Hampshire, which, with a whopping average debt of $32,440 for graduates running a loan tab, comes in at nearly $2,500 more than its nearest competitor. Besides Dartmouth, there aren't too many familiar colleges in the state to those outside of New England, but even the lack of notoriety for New Hampshire's universities hasn't prevented many graduates from tacking on over $30,000 of debt during their college years. To top it all off, 75% of graduates - or three out of every four - are graduating with obligations to the bank.
(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)