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Minnesota college grads shoulder some of the heaviest student loan debt in the US

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Minnesota has ranked high on another list – but this is one many college graduates would prefer not to be on.

A new report from the Project on Student Debt by the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) says Minnesota ranks fifth in the nation for the largest average student loan debt.

What it found: A 2013 graduate with a bachelor's degree from a public or nonprofit college averaged $30,894 in debt.

Minnesota also ranked fourth in the nation for the proportion of graduates – 70 percent – with debt.

The report, which was released Thursday, says nationally, seven in 10 graduates in 2013 left school in debt. Of those, the average amount each owed was $28,400 in student loans – that's 2 percent higher than 2012 grads.

The report notes the amount of debt varies greatly by state – ranging from $18,656 in New Mexico to $32,795 in New Hampshire – with nearly all the highest-debt states in the Northeast and Midwest. (See the state-by-state breakdown here or check out this interactive map.)

Meredith Fergus, manager of financial aid research at the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, told the Star Tribune one reason Minnesota has a high amount of student debt is because the state has a high college participation rate.

Lauren Asher, president of TICAS, said in a news release that a college degree "is still the best path to a job and decent pay, and while loans are increasingly needed to get through school, graduating with burdensome debt is not a foregone conclusion. Where you go to college matters, and the kind of loans you have matter, too."

She says federal loans have income-based repayment plans and other beneficial protections, where private loans may lack those protections.

Concern over student loan debt has pushed the Minnesota Legislature and the state's public colleges to propose another tuition freeze at the undergraduate level.

According to Forbes, total student loan debt sits at $1.2 trillion. Chief economist for Moody’s Analytics Mark Zandi told Forbes it's delaying major life choices compared to the previous generation, such as starting a family or purchasing a house. The story says while finding a direct link is difficult, some economists are " finding hints of a drag on the overall economy."

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