DC ranks high among cities overleveraged with student debt

There’s a growing debate over student loan forgiveness as President Biden is reportedly moving forward on a plan to cancel around $10,000 of those loans per borrower.

So how big of an issue is it for the D.C. area?

According to a recent report by WalletHub, the District ranks higher than most cities for people overleveraged by student debt.

The median student debt in the District is $33,175, while the median income of bachelor’s degree holders is $71,842, making the ratio of student debt to income around 46%.

Arlington and Bethesda rank much lower on the list, at around 35% and 34%, respectively.

The ratio for Alexandria is higher — around 38%. (See table below.)

Jill Gonzalez, an analyst with Wallet Hub, told WTOP it’s likely due to more people having lower-paying, entry-level government jobs in D.C.

Nationwide, student debt is at a record $1.6 trillion. Gonzalez said it’s the second-biggest form of household debt after mortgages.

The report surveyed more than 2,500 cities. Those with the lowest debt-to-income ratio include Coachella, California; Bronxville, New York; and Severna Park, Maryland.

The Biden administration recently extended the pause on federal student loan payments through Aug. 31. A survey in April from U.S. News & World Report found that 37% of respondents said they wouldn’t be able to make federal student loan payments if they resume Sept. 1.

City Median
student debt
Median earnings of
bachelor’s degree holders
Ratio of debt
to earnings
23 Washington, D.C. $33,175 $71,842 46.18%
50 Alexandria, Virginia $27,968 $73,094 38.26%
65 Arlington, Virginia $28,600 $82,163 34.81%
69 Bethesda, Maryland $28,084 $82,837 33.9%


Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin is an anchor/reporter for WTOP. She started her career in New York City as a local TV reporter and has since covered foreign affairs and national politics as a Washington correspondent. She also anchored a nightly news show for an international network.

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