College students in the Northeast and the Midwest graduated with the most debt in the nation in 2010, according to a report released this week by The Project on Student Debt.
Students at New Hampshire schools had the highest average debt ($31,048), followed by Maine ($29,983), Iowa ($29,598), Minnesota ($29,058) and Pennsylvania ($28,599). Rounding out the top 10 were Vermont ($28,391), Ohio ($27,713), Indiana ($27,001), Rhode Island ($26,340) and New York ($26,271).
The students with the least debt graduated from schools in the West and South: Utah ($15,509), Hawaii ($15,550), New Mexico ($16,399), Nevada ($16,622), California ($18,113), Arizona ($18,454), Georgia ($18,888), Kentucky ($19,375), Tennessee ($19,957) and Wyoming ($20,571).
The numbers are not entirely surprising, as the Ivy League schools are in the Northeast, and many other prestigious and expensive schools -- the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, for instance -- are in the Midwest.
The regional disparities may also be a result of trends in how many students go to public versus private colleges and universities. In the Northeast and Midwest, a disproportionate number of students go to private four-year colleges, while a disproportionate number of students in the West go to public four-year colleges.
But that's not the only reason New Hampshire tops the list: the Granite State has also slashed financial aid programs and funding for public colleges.
In the last session, the legislature eliminated all general fund support for scholarships to students, and there was a nearly 50 percent cut in support for the university system, Thomas Horgan, president of the New Hampshire College and University Council, told the New Hampshire Union Leader.
The growing burden of student debt has been one of the driving forces behind the Occupy Wall Street movement, and President Obama recently announced an initiative that would cap monthly loan payments at 10 percent of income for eligible borrowers and forgive remaining debt after 20 years of timely payments.
With the new numbers, it doesn't seem like the issue will go away anytime soon.