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March Debtness 2018: Private School Grads Win at Paying off Their Student Loans

This week, as 16 of the nation's top universities compete on the court, these schools are also matched up for even bigger bragging rights—the winner of March Debtness!

For those unfamiliar with the time-hallowed tradition, each and every year since 2017, CommonBond has pitted the "Savings 16" against one another to see which school's graduates are able to pay off their student loan debt the fastest. We take the same 16 schools that have advanced to the Sweet 16 round of the Men's NCAA Basketball Championship and, using the very same bracket, match them up depending on precisely how long it takes their average graduate to pay off all of their college debt.

How do we figure this all out? We've created a formula based on average student debt and starting salaries for graduates from each institution, as well as the average federal loan rate and a 10 percent income allotment put toward repayment. The results led us to crown our second-ever March Debtness champions.

As the world can now see, Duke University took the title, defeating Texas A&M with a bracket-busting 3.65 years until repayment, on average. It was relatively smooth sailing throughout the Savings 16 for Duke, though competition did get fiercer as the rounds progressed. By contrast, Texas A&M faced its toughest challenge—at least until the finals— in the first round, narrowly edging out the University of Michigan with a timeline of 4.59 years to 4.74 years. Still, it was clear from the beginning that Duke couldn't be caught (mostly because the numbers were the same every round).

It's fun to get into the college basketball spirit and find out which schools best set graduates up to manage their loans, but there are other takeaways from March Debtness, too. Last year's Savings 16 winner, UCLA (not to be confused with overall field of 64 winner Princeton), is a public university, but 2018 champion Duke is a private school. Though many assume that public school graduates have an easier time paying off their loans than those from private schools, that's often not the case—as detailed in 2017's analysis, the higher starting salaries associated with private school degrees are often able to offset the greater expenses that come with them. Private schools may also provide financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships. 

Congratulations to all of the participants, and remember that refinancing your student loans through CommonBond can save you months or even years compared to your alma mater's average repayment time.

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