Special Report

Cities Where College Students Are Most Burdened By Debt

Student debt, incurred as a result of getting a college education, is a burden not just for young Americans, but it has negative repercussions for the economy overall. Debt hampers recently graduated students from buying homes and home furnishings, and it delays them from starting families. In some parts of the country, student debt is more of an albatross than others. It is less of an issue in one part of the nation in particular.

To determine the cities that are most and least burdened by student debt, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed WalletHub’s 2022’s Cities with the Most & Least Student Debt, which found how leveraged residents are, when it comes to student debt, in 2,510 U.S. cities. For each city, WalletHub divided the median student-loan balance by the median earnings of adults aged 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree. We ranked the 25 most and least leveraged cities.

Student debt has eclipsed both auto loan and credit card debt to become the second-highest source of consumer debt, topped only by mortgage loans. According to the Federal Reserve, total student loan debt, both federal and private, amounts to $1.75 trillion and is owed by some 45 million people. About 92% of all student debt is in the form of federal student loans.

Of the 10 cities that are most burdened by student debt, eight are in the South. Of the 25 most burdened cities, six are in Mississippi, four in Georgia, and three in South Carolina. The ratio of debt to earnings in the 25 cities on the list is at least 71.5%. (Find out if Southern states are also among the cheapest states to get a college education.)

Student debt is less onerous in the West, in particular California, where 17 of the 25 cities least student burdened by student debt are located. The highest ratio of debt to earnings at these 25 cities is 20.3%.

Many of the least burdened cities are located in or near Silicon Valley, where the technology sector dominates the economy and tech jobs offer well-paying jobs for students recently graduated from college. These cities include Fremont, Sunnyvale, Menlo Park, Gilroy, and Milpitas. (Find out if these cities are among the cities where a college education pays off the most.)

Washington state has two cities on the list, and one of them, Redmond, is the headquarters of Microsoft. The median earnings of bachelor’s degree holders in Redmond is $101,309, one of eight cities on the list where median earnings of bachelor’s degree holders top $100,000. The other Washington city, Sammamish, is about 3 miles southeast of Redmond.

Click here for cities where college students are most burdened by debt

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