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Washington, D.C. is the nation's capital of student loan debt.

3 minute read

If you live in D.C., you have the highest chance of being over $100,000 in student debt.

If you want to avoid that, go to McAllen, Texas. They have the least student debt, which is nearly half that of D.C.’s. That’s what a study from investment firm LendingTree says.

Five cities with the most student debt

  • Washington, D.C: The typical student loan borrower here is $22,803 in debt. Meanwhile, more than half (55.4 percent) of D.C. residents, 25 and older, have at least a bachelor’s degree, according to Census Bureau data. That’s more than the national average of 30.3 percent. Nearly one fourth have a graduate degree, double the national average of 11.5 percent. This could explain why the city has the highest percentage of borrowers more than six figures in debt, at 9.8 percent. But the average college graduate with a bachelor’s degree earns $63,708 and those with a master’s bring home $86,625 every year, Census says.
  • Atlanta, Georgia: Borrowers in the ATL average $22,232 worth of student debt. And 37 percent of people, 25 and older, have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Atlanta has one third the amount of student loan holders with graduate degrees as D.C., at only 13 percent. However, not far behind D.C., 9 percent of Atlanta residents with student loans owe more than $100,000. Census estimates that the typical college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Atlanta earns $53,356 yearly, and those with a master’s earn $70,933.
  • Richmond, Virginia: The usual balance here is $21,915. And very close to its predecessor in this list, 34 percent of Richmond’s residents, 25 and older, have at least a bachelor’s and 13 percent have a master’s degree. A graduate with a bachelor’s degree usually earns $62,022 and those with graduate degrees earn $84,242 a year on average. Less people in Richmond (7.7 percent) than the last two cities have more than $100,000 worth of student debt.
  • Raleigh, North Carolina: Borrowers here ordinarily carry $21,357 worth of student debt. Forty-four percent have a bachelor’s degree and 16 percent have a master’s. The number of student loan carriers with over $100,000 is up to 8.7 percent in Raleigh. College grads with their bachelor’s earn about $42,231 and those with who finished grad school bring home $53,989 annually.
  • Akron, Ohio: The average student debt in this “Buckeye State” city is $21,037. A third of its residents hold at least a bachelor’s degree, and 11 percent have a master’s or higher. Only 6.5 percent of these college grads owe more than $100,000. And student debtors with a bachelor’s typically earn $49,712 a year, while those with a master’s earn $59,292.

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Five cities with the least student debt

  • McAllen, Texas: Everything’s bigger in Texas, except student loan balances in this town. The average borrower has $13,017. A fair explanation for the city with the lowest student debt average in the country could be low college attendance. Only 17 percent of residents, 25 and older, have a bachelor’s degree, and only 5 percent graduated with a master’s degree. Those with a bachelor’s earn $44,819 and $60,348 for those holding a master’s.
  • Fresno, California: The average student debt is $13, 808. About 20 percent of the residents here have their bachelor’s degree, and 7 percent have a graduate degree. Only 4.4 percent have more than $100,000 in student debt. And grads with a bachelor’s earn $48,167, while those with a master’s earn $68,042 a year.
  • Springfield, Massachusetts: The most likely student debt balance in this northeastern city is $14,615. A third of it’s residents older than 24 percent have earned a bachelor’s, and 14 percent have their master’s. Just under 5 percent have more than $100,000 student debts. Those with a bachelor’s earn $50,168 and $73,819 for those with a master’s.
  • Bakersfield, California: The second city in the “Golden State” to make the top 5 cities with the least student debt list. Borrowers here typically have $14,656 to pay back for their education. And only 16 percent have earned their four-year-degree, while only 5 percent have succeeded graduate school. Those with a bachelor’s earn $59,009 and $73,021 for master’s holders.
  • Providence, Rhode Island: A city home to Brown University, an Ivy League school, and the last on the top 5 cities with the least student debt. Thirty percent have a bachelor’s degree, and 12 percent have a master’s. It’s very possible that a lot of Rhode Island residents don’t attend Brown University. Average tuition at $50,000 per academic year, and only 4.4 percent of residents have more than $100,000 here. Data for the average annual income of college graduates was not available through the Census Bureau.


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About the Author

Joe Pye

Joe Pye

Joe Pye is a certified debt management professional. He served as Editor-in-Chief of Florida Atlantic University’s student-run newspaper, the University Press. He was a finalist for the Mark of Excellence award by the Society of Professional Journalists Region 3 for feature writing and in-depth reporting. He now covers personal finance topics for uncovering trends that help readers deal with the financial world. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism from Florida Atlantic University.

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