MONEY Student Loans

College Grads in These States Are Most Likely to Pay Off Their Student Loan Debt

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Sadeugra—Getty Images

Student loan debt in the US has reached $1.2 trillion.

Go west, young grad—and, preferably, to Utah.

That’s the takeaway from a new report from WalletHub, which evaluated local economic strength and earnings potential to rank the 50 states (and D.C.) by their student debt burdens.

Utah took the number-one spot, as the state where college graduates have the best chances of paying off their loans with ease. Wyoming came in second, followed by North Dakota, Washington and Nebraska.

WalletHub based the rankings on seven key factors, including a state’s unemployment rate for Millennials; debt as a percentage of income adjusted by cost of living; and the percentage of student-loan borrowers over the age of 50.

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At the bottom of the heap, the states that ranked poorly for student debt were Georgia, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Mississippi, which took 51st place overall. Wallethub calculated that Mississippi had three times the number of student-loan borrowers in past-due or default status as Vermont, the state with the lowest percentage of such borrowers.

New York was listed at number 45, thanks in part to its high unemployment among Millennials and high costs of living, while D.C. was at 41.

With the nation’s student debt at a staggering $1.2 trillion—and ticking up $3,000 per second—the burden of debt plays an increasing role in life decisions for many Millennials. And it’s become a popular topic for researchers.

A separate survey from Bankrate.com found 45% of Americans with student loans have delayed a milestone event like buying a home or getting married because of their debt—and the number jumps to 56% within the 18-to-29 demo.

These recent graduates were also most likely to say that they didn’t receive enough information on the risks of carrying student loan debt before taking it on. The only category in which they’re on track with other age groups is socking away for their future retirements.

While those 18 to 29 were found most likely to put off major life events, it’s the next group—those from 30 to 49—that included the highest percentage of college grads still chipping away at their student loans.

Feeling the burden of your own debt? Start your journey to financial freedom with a crash course in paying off student loans.

Check out MONEY’s 2015-16 Best Colleges rankings

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TIME Great Places

See Photos of the Pristine Utah Desert in the 1940s

A look at the western landscape before the Interstate Highway System brought cars full of tourists

Utah’s national parks and monuments were established in the teens and 1920s, but it wasn’t until the mid-century construction of the Interstate Highway System that station wagons began to snake their way through the American West in droves. In 1947, when LIFE dispatched Loomis Dean to photograph the people and animals that called the desert home, it seemed there were still more sheep in the roads than cars.

Dean’s photos, never published in the magazine, capture the future tourist mecca with nary a track in the sand save for the sheep, the shepherds who herded them and the Native Americans who lived there. Though the images are in black and white, it’s hard not to see the rocks as red and the sky, stretching on forever, as blue. There is something quiet about the photos—you can see the wind in the hair of two children on a mule and the blinding sun on a man’s weathered face, but the noise of traffic and industry is miles away.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME animals

This Doggie Photo Booth Is the Cutest Thing You’ll See Today

But it also has a serious job: helping animals find homes

With the help of some professional quality photos, an adorable marketing strategy and social media, the Humane Society of Utah is making sure every dog has its day.

Instead of taking the usual mournful pictures of dogs in their pens, social-media coordinator Guinnevere Shuster, who took the photos, thought about how to make the animals more appealing to potential adopters.

“I was hoping that it would help change people’s options and perceptions of shelter dogs. Showing off the individual personalities of the dogs, instead of the sad ‘behind bars’ images that have become associated with shelter animals,” she tells TIME.

The pictures are posted on the organization’s Facebook and Instagram pages and have been wildly successful, but according to special-event manager Rachel Kelly, they have had a more important impact.

“Since we have started utilizing social media, we had a record-breaking number of adoptions, placing over 10,000 animals into homes in 2014. We are already set to break that record this year … We definitely attribute this photo campaign as a large part of this success, as they capture the unique personality of each animal,” she tells TIME.

Cats have predictably proved to be more difficult, but Shuster says she has an “arsenal of treats and bribes” to give it another go.

TIME Obesity

This Place Just Became the First Part of the U.S. to Impose a Tax on Junk Food

TIME.com stock photos Food Snacks Candy
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

It also eliminated a 5% sales tax on healthy produce

The Navajo Nation, which suffers from a 10% obesity rate, is imposing a 2% junk-food tax on its reservation beginning April 1.

Navajo president Ben Shelly approved the Healthy Dine Nation Act last November, which from this week will also eliminate a 5% sales tax on healthy fare including fresh fruits and vegetables.

Revenues from the sin tax will reportedly be channeled toward community wellness projects like farmer’s markets, vegetable gardens and greenhouses in the 27,000 sq. mi. of Navajo reservation spanning from Arizona and New Mexico to Utah.

Approximately 24,600 Navajo tribe members face obesity, according to the Navajo Area Indian Health Service. Type 2 diabetes has emerged as a growing public health concern afflicting up to 60% of reservation residents in some areas.

With nearly half of the Navajo youth population facing unemployment and 38% of the Navajo reservation at the poverty level, supporters say the act may serve as a prototype for sin taxes to curb obesity in low-income communities across the U.S.

By comparison, around one-third of Americans nationwide are classified as obese, the highest rate in the world.

TIME College Basketball

That Last-Second Free-Throw in the Duke-Utah Game Cost Vegas Millions

during a South Regional Semifinal game of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at NRG Stadium on March 27, 2015 in Houston, Texas.
Tom Pennington—2015 Getty Images Quinn Cook #2 of the Duke Blue Devils and Delon Wright #55 of the Utah Utes battle for a rebound during a South Regional Semifinal game of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at NRG Stadium on March 27, 2015 in Houston, Texas.

The whistle was ignored in the stadium but heard loud and clear by bettors

A seemingly meaningless free-throw shot in the Duke-Utah Sweet 16 game cost Vegas big bucks Friday night.

When the buzzer sounded, Duke was up five points 62-57. That was bad news for bettors who picked Duke. Since most sportsbooks had Duke as a 5-point favorite, Duke would have to win by more than 5 points for those bettors to get paid. But after players had already left the court, officials said they had called a last-second foul. Putting 0.7 seconds back on the clock, Duke guard Quinn Cook sank one free-throw that cost casinos thousands because they were forced to pay the three-quarters of bettors who had placed their money on Duke.

Exactly how much money casinos lost is still unclear, but it’s probably in the millions. “It caused a million-dollar swing with parlay liability, to the bad,” MGM vice president of race and sports Jay Rood told ESPN.

Here’s what happened: Duke led 62-57 with 10 seconds left in the game when Cook rebounded a missed shot by Utah forward Jordan Loveridge. Cook wrestled for the ball with Utah defenders in what could have been a jump ball call. But the whistles stayed silent, and Cook dribbled out of trouble.

With the game seemingly over, the Utes began to head back to the locker room as the Blue Devils celebrated. But officials said they called a foul on Utah guard Brandon Taylor who grabbed Cook as he was dribbling away with 0.7 seconds left. Officials called the Utes back to the court so Cook could shoot what seemed to the players to be pointless free-throws. Duke came away with its 6-point victory.

According to ESPN, 77% of spread bettors were on Duke on Friday night. Las Vegas sportsbook operator CG Technology said they had a six-figure swing after the free-throw, according to ESPN.

Bettors tweeted their fury and joy—depending upon where they placed their bets:

Watch the last-second foul below:

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TIME Accident

See Raw Footage of an Infant Rescued After 14 Hours in a Submerged Car

Watch responders save Lily Groesbeck from car stuck in a freezing river

Warning: This video contains graphic content.

New body camera footage shows the rescue of 18-month-old Lily Groesbeck, who was saved by authorities after surviving 14 hours stuck in a car that had flipped onto its hood in a freezing Utah river.

Groesbeck survived a crash that killed her mother, Lynn Jennifer Groesbeck, 25, after the car crashed into the Utah’s Spanish Fork River. The car went unnoticed for hours, even though Lily was trapped in her car seat in the back. Her family is calling the survival a “miracle.”

The footage shows emergency responders working together to get Groesbeck out of the vehicle and to paramedics.

MORE: Here’s How a Baby Survived 14 Hours in a Freezing River

TIME Marriage

This Is How Much an Average Wedding Now Costs in America

It's higher than ever before

The price of weddings has jumped to a new all-time high, reaching an average $31,213 in 2014, new research says.

Surveying around 16,000 American couples, the Knot 2014 Real Weddings Study also found that 45% of weddings exceed a couple’s budgets and, more worryingly, 23% lack a budget altogether. Most brides spent an average of $1,357 alone on their wedding dress.

At the same time, guest lists are shrinking even as costs rise. “The average wedding now has 136 guests, down from 149 in 2009,” says the Knot’s Rebecca Dolgin.

The cheapest place to tie the knot was Utah, where couples spent only $15,000 on the big day in 2014. The most expensive place for nuptials was Manhattan at $76,328.

Read next: Watch This Guy Propose to His Girlfriend 365 Times Without Her Knowing

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TIME Crime

The Harsh Reality of Execution by Firing Squad

The firing squad execution chamber at the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah in 2010.
Trent Nelson—AP The firing squad execution chamber at the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah in 2010.

It's undeniably brutal — but experts say it may be the most effective way to carry out the death penalty

The Utah State Senate voted Tuesday to bring back firing squads if lethal injection drugs become unavailable, which would make it the only state in the union to allow the method.

Only three death row inmates have been executed by firing squad since 1976, all in Utah, with the last being Ronnie Lee Gardner in 2010. The method is considered cruel by many Americans; only 12% said they would be open to it in a 2014 NBC News poll. But experts say it may actually be the most effective way for states to execute inmates.

“Firing squad is the only execution method for which people are trained,” says Fordham University law professor Deborah Denno, who studies lethal injection and other execution methods. “It’s the most certain, the most expert way of executing and from all we know it would be the quickest.”

In previous executions, Utah has used five gunmen who each aim at the inmate’s heart. One of the executioners fires a blank, so it remains uncertain as to who fired the fatal shots. Any trained marksman willing to participate could theoretically be an executioner, whereas with lethal injections, prison officials or others with no certified medical training must hook up death row inmates to IVs.

There are few, if any, ways to determine how painful an execution by firing squad would be. But it does appear to bring about death more quickly than lethal injection. In 1977, when Gary Gilmore was the first person executed by firing squad in Utah following the moratorium on capital punishment in the U.S., a doctor pronounced Gilmore dead within two minutes.

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There have been at least two firing squad executions that could be considered botched. One occurred in 1879, when Wallace Wilkerson moved just enough for the executioners to miss his heart. Another came in 1951 when gunmen misfired and hit inmate Eliseo Mares in the stomach and hip. But firing squads appear to have a much better track record than lethal injection. Last year, three lethal injection executions were considered botched.

“The death probably happens within seconds,” says Dr. Jonathan Groner, a pediatric surgeon at The Ohio State University who studies executions. “There is no way to measure the pain, but there’s anecdotal evidence that it’s less painful.”

Groner cites several lethal injections in the last year, including the executions of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma and Dennis McGuire in Ohio, which resulted in prolonged deaths in which witnesses described the inmates groaning and writhing on the gurney.

But patients who die from heart complications can lose consciousness within seconds, he says. There is also a bizarre experiment from 1938 in which doctors monitored the electrical activity of the heart of a Utah man who was being executed, which showed that his heart essentially became inactive within about 20 seconds of the shots being fired.

But over the years, the public has largely decided that firing squad is cruel in a modern society that has the tools to put inmates to sleep, which often appears painless. Even Gardner’s brother, Randy, came out this week describing the brutality of Ronnie’s execution in 2010. Death by firing squad seems like an antiquated and crude practice, whereas death by lethal injection can appear comparatively humane—even though it’s unclear what sort of pain inmates are in. A number of legal challenges claim it fails the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

“Is the firing squad needlessly cruel punishment? The executed cannot say,” says Joel Zivot, an Emory Healthcare anesthesiologist who studies executions and lethal injection. “These days, debates about methods of execution seem to be setting aside questions of cruelty evaluation and are more about having any method on hand.”

TIME space travel

Watch NASA Fire Up the Biggest Rocket Booster Ever

And blast a serious hole in the Utah desert in the process.

NASA successfully fired up a huge new rocket booster at its Utah test facility on Wednesday, passing a major milestone for future deep-space missions.

The 117-foot booster is the biggest ever built and NASA says it’s powerful enough to reach beyond the Moon, to asteroids or even Mars.

Apart from making a serious dent in the Utah desert, the booster is part of a Space Launch System (SLS) being developed by the space agency that is scheduled to blast off in 2018.

The rocket was fired for two minutes (the same amount of time it takes to launch the SLS) and produced about 3.6 million pounds of thrust.

“The work being done around the country today to build the SLS is laying a solid foundation for future exploration missions, and these missions will enable us to pioneer far into the solar system,” said William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations.

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