The Department of Education in March proposed new “gainful employment” rules which would require for-profit colleges that benefit from federal student aid to meet certain standards relating to student debt and income.

California was the first state in the nation to require for-profit colleges to meet standards beyond those required by the federal government for its grants and loans, passing a law in 2011 prohibiting schools with high borrowing and default rates from receiving Cal Grant funds. In 2012, the state further tightened standards for institutions, eliminating 154 schools from receiving Cal Grant funds.

In January, New York state’s Student Protection Unit issued subpoenas to 13 student debt relief companies as part of its investigation into whether the companies might be charging improper fees to enroll students in debt relief programs that are already available free through the federal government.

Today, Hastie, 31, is on his way to a new life – he completed an associate’s degree at a community college in New York, got married and had a baby. He is working in a deli and volunteering as an EMT and a firefighter after taking a civil service exam to become a firefighter.

But Hastie worries about the day, in August, when he will have to begin paying back his loans.

“I don’t even want to think about it,” Hastie said.

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States with the highest amount of average debt for students graduating with loans in 2012 (Source: Institute for College Access and Success):

  • Delaware: $33,649
  • New Hampshire: $32,698
  • Pennsylvania: $31,675
  • Minnesota: $31,497
  • Rhode Island: $31,156
  • Iowa: $29,456
  • Maine: $29,352
  • New Jersey: $29,287
  • Ohio: $29,037
  • Michigan: $28,840

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