Arizona ranks lower than national average for student debt

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Cailyn Finkel, a junior at Arizona State University, holds down two jobs, an internship and a full course load.

“Initially, it was very stressful,” she admitted. “I had a couple of mental breakdowns.”

Despite careful budgeting, help from her family and making dough on the side, she will still graduate with thousands of dollars in student debt.

“A lot of my classmates are in the same boat and even worse off than I am,” Finkel said. “My roommate right now is about $40,000 in debt and she’s going to grad school, so it will be even worse by the time she graduates.”

Research by the Institute for College Access and Success reveals an estimated seven in 10 college seniors nationwide carry student loan debt, with an average of $29,400 per borrower, according to the latest data available from 2012.

“In general, we find that student debt continues to rise, but we’re always struck by the amount of variation between states and colleges,” said Matthew Reed, the program director at the institute.

Reed crunched the numbers that went into a map comparing student debt across states. He found Arizona fared better than other states because of the number of students in the state attending public college, combined with a generous amount of grant and financial aid available.

However, it’s estimated that 54 percent of Arizona students still graduate with an average debt of $20,299.

“Even taking student debt into consideration, college is still one of the best investments you can make,” Reed said.

He said the students who are particularly hurt in the long run are the ones who accrue debt but do not graduate.

Reed urges students to carefully research financial aid options and opt for a federal loan with a fixed interest rate over a private one with a variable rate, if possible.

“When you’re either forced to make it work or make it not work, it kinda leaves you very little options,” said Finkel, who aspires to be the editor-in-chief of a major magazine. “I think this will be a good test run for real life.”