Will certain states help your kid avoid the evils of student loan debt?

The Project on Student Debt recently released its Student Debt and the Class of 2008 study and the results are sobering, to say the least.

The average graduate of a four-year college with loans is now leaving with $23,200 in debt, up from $18,650 in 2004.

The state by state numbers are also interesting: the District of Columbia clocked in with the highest average debt load: $29,793. Iowa, Connecticut, New York, and New Hampshire followed.

On the least debt side, students in Utah graduate with just $13,041 in debt. Hawaii, Kentucky, Wyoming, and Arizona followed.

The Christian Science Monitor proclaimed that "Want lower student loans? Study in Utah or Hawaii, study finds."

What a wonderful idea. Surf your cares away in Maui -- and stay out of debt in the process?

Unfortunately, that's not how it works. The Project on Student Debt noted that "northeastern states tend to have more students than average attending private colleges, and higher than average tuition for both public and private colleges, while western states tend to have more students attending public colleges and lower than average tuition at public colleges."

But here's the problem: in order to benefit from lower average tuition prices at public colleges, you have to be an in-state student. For instance at the University of Hawaii's Manoa campus, in-state tuition and fees is a very reasonable $7,167 per year. But for out of staters, it jumps to $19,215 -- plus room and board.

The bottom line is that tourism is unlikely to lead to to reduced college costs and reduced student debt loads, in spite of what a cursory glance at national numbers might seem to suggest. I wish that weren't the case -- I really do -- but it isn't. To avoid student loan debt, in-state colleges and universities will likely present the best option for the vast majority of undergraduates.
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