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College Debt

Student loan debt in the U.S. now totals more than $1.5 trillion, but students in some states are getting hit harder than others.

Students in the Northeast have the heaviest burdens. Nearly 75 percent of college graduates in New Hampshire have outstanding student loans and they owe an average of $36,367 — that's the highest rate in the country, according to the Institute for College Access and Success's 12th Annual Student Debt report.

The report, published annually, breaks down both the percentage of students carrying undergraduate student loan debt, and the average amount each graduate owed in every state (with the exception of North Dakota, where there was insufficient data). TICAS's report used the most up-to-date data based on the Class of 2016.

Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Minnesota and Massachusetts rounded out the top six states with the highest average amount of undergraduate student debt: Recent grads in these states carry over $31,500 on average.

It makes sense that the Northeast states are carrying higher student loan debt, according to Adam Minksy a lawyer specializing in student loan law. "Certain states have less robust, affordable state education systems," Minsky tells CNBC Make It.

States like California and Florida have major state universities that are both affordable and prestigious, so many students end up going to these institutions and taking on less debt, Minsky says. However, states such as New Hampshire and Massachusetts host Ivy League schools — including Dartmouth College and Harvard University — as well as private universities that may be less affordable. And while several Ivy League schools offer generous financial aid packages, other elite, expensive private universities don't always offer the same level of suppor

But prioritizing basic needs is exactly what the Australian system does. The idea is that no one facing economic hardship should have to choose between paying student debt and paying for basic necessities. When earnings drop, loan payments drop immediately, allowing borrowers to devote their reduced budgets to essential needs. Borrowers don’t have to fill out an application, or even make a phone call, to get the payments stopped.

In the United States, student loan bills keep coming, no matter how small the paycheck. It’s up to borrowers to apply for a reprieve if their financial situation worsens. Getting on an income-based repayment plan depends on working with a loan servicer to complete a 12-page application. As shown by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, this is often a bumpy process that can take months. In the meantime, the bills keep coming — and millions of borrowers end up in default.​

An even better solution would be a United Way model. The United Way has been such a success in corporate America because it simplifies donating, offering companies a streamlined way to ensure their contributions go to productive charities. It also allows companies to engage in some friendly philanthropic competition.

Finally, philanthropists need to lobby universities, wag a finger at those that waste money and gently threaten to look for entry-level employees elsewhere and redirect any philanthropic donations.

I’m not advocating for a boycott, which would be harsh and counterproductive. As business leaders, it’s not only ethical but also in our best interest to support an educated populace. Then again, we don’t like spending money on poor returns, so we shouldn’t give blindly to our alma maters just because we spent a few years there. We need to insist on consequences for those who misuse our money.

DMU Timestamp: September 17, 2018 17:21

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