D.C. grads incur most debt in U.S.

College students in D.C. carry a higher level of debt upon graduation than any other students in the country.

Students in the District graduate with an average of $30,033 in debt, more than double the debt load students in Utah – the state with the least amount of student debt – leave school with, the Project on Student Debt found. The study, which found that GW students graduate with $31,299 in debt, used student data from 2009.

The national average for 2009 graduates was about $24,000, up 6 percent from the previous year.

GW student debt comes primarily from student loans, said Dan Small, director of the Office of Student Financial Assistance. Students who do not qualify for financial aid or whose applications are denied turn to either private loan companies or the federal loan program “to meet their educational expenses.”

Small said he believes living in an area with a high cost of living is partially to blame for D.C. students’ debt levels.

“Also, we do not have the state support other schools may have from their state government,” Small said. “The total amount of aid provided to students attending a D.C. school comes from the institution.”

GW students still graduate with less debt than those at American University and the Corcoran College of Art + Design, who carried $40,966 and $42,355 in debt, respectively.

Although the District ranked No. 1 in the amount of debt students incur upon graduation, only half, or 51 percent, of D.C. students were in debt at all upon graduation. At GW, that number was lower, at 47 percent of graduates. Thirty-seven other states had higher percentages of students in debt upon graduation.

Jeremy Shore, a sophomore, considers himself one of the lucky ones, for whom debt is not a concern.

“I’m fortunate enough that my grandparents pay for my college degree,” Shore said. “D.C. is expensive. If you want to have fun, you gotta pay money. Debt’s not really a concern for me but I’m sure it is to other people.”

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