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D.C. Leads Nation In Student Debt—But Pays It Back Quickly

The D.C. residents that have student debt have a lot of it—more than $40,000.
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The D.C. residents that have student debt have a lot of it—more than $40,000.

College students across the country often emerge with at least one thing in common—they're saddled with debt from the loans they took out to finance their higher education. But graduates in D.C. and Maryland are carrying the heaviest load.

A report from the Federal Reserve of New York finds that students in the two Mid-Atlantic jurisdictions carry the highest student debt load in the country, with D.C. coming in at whopping $41,230 and Maryland ranking a distant second with $28,330. Virginia students each carried an average of $26,310 in debt; the national average stood at $24,810.

The report also found that over 25 percent of D.C. residents carry student debt, higher than anywhere else in the country. Maryland at 16.7 percent, Virginia at 15.4 percent; the national average is 16.2 percent.

There are some likely explanations—and caveats.

First off, many D.C.-based universities rank among the most expensive in the country. Additionally, the D.C. Metro region has the highest proportion of graduate degrees in the country, according to the U.S. Census. Fully 22.9 percent of local residents have gained a graduate or professional degree, likely adding debt in the process. 

But as they add debt, they also increase their job prospects—especially in the D.C. region, which weathered the recession better than many parts of the country and remains a magnet for young professionals.

More importantly, though, is the fact that while D.C. students might be weighed down in debt, they're managing it pretty well. According to the Federal Reserve, the percent of student loan debt that is delinquent by more than 90 days stands at 7.3 for D.C., lowest in the country. In Virginia, it's 9.6 percent, below the national average of 11.7 percent; Maryland, for its part, stands at 12.1 percent. West Virginians fare worst, with 17.8 percent of students 90 days delinquent.

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