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The average balance for federal and private student loan borrowers in the District of Columbia is $52,049, 42% more than the U.S. average of $36,689. And even though it isn’t a state, the District of Columbia is often included in data related to student loans — and its average student loan balance is the highest in the country.

However, there are ways to reduce how much you owe in District of Columbia student loans. Programs like the DC Tuition Assistance Grant and the Mayor’s Scholars Undergraduate Program, as well as the United States Senate Youth Program, can help students reduce their reliance on student debt for college funding.

District of Columbia student loans: Borrowers owe average of $52,049 in federal, private debt

The average balance for District of Columbia federal and private student loan borrowers is $52,049.

District of Columbia student debt overview
Average balance $52,049
Total outstanding debt $7.3 billion
Number of borrowers 0.1 million
Average total monthly payment $388
Note: Averages include federal and private student loan debt.

The District of Columbia stands out with the highest average student loan balance in the U.S. But while D.C. isn’t a state, an ongoing push to create a state out of the District of Columbia could finally clear Congress, making the data more relevant.

There are about 100,000 student loan borrowers in the District of Columbia, and their average monthly payment is $388. You can see how the District stacks up here, with the next-highest average balance in Maryland:

4 things to know about going to college in District of Columbia

If you want to attend school in the District of Columbia, there are a few things to be aware of as you move forward:

  • There is only 1 public university in the District of Columbia: Even though there are several universities based in the District of Columbia, only one is public: the University of the District of Columbia.
  • Many universities have nationally recognized political science and public affairs programs: Perhaps due to its location as the nation’s capital, the District of Columbia has many private universities with well-known public affairs and political science programs.
  • The DC Tuition Assistance Grant is available for residents: Students who meet the grant requirements can get up to $10,000 per academic year. And it’s not limited just to schools in the District of Columbia — there are more than 300 schools across the country that participate in the grant program.
  • The DC Mayor’s Scholars Undergraduate Program offers up to $4,000 yearly: For those who still have a college funding gap after receiving financial aid, this program can help bridge it. It’s designed for qualifying residents who attend area schools, including private institutions and even some located in nearby Maryland and Virginia. Applicants can receive up to $4,000 for the 2021-22 academic year. The award is capped at six years — and $24,000 — for those seeking four-year degrees.

Loan repayment programs for District of Columbia residents

Loan forgiveness programs can make it a little easier to tackle your debt to repay your District of Columbia student loans.

DC Bar Foundation Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP)

There are two opportunities through the DC Bar Foundation LRAP — one publicly funded and one privately funded — which provides up to $12,000 a year in loans. To qualify, you must provide legal assistance to low-income D.C. residents by working with an eligible employer.

DC Health Professional Loan Repayment Program (HPLRP)

The DC HPLRP provides as much as nearly $152,000 for physicians and dentists and nearly $84,000 for other qualified medical and mental health professionals. Recipients must work in medically underserved areas or health care shortage areas to qualify.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

One of the most well-known federal loan forgiveness programs is PSLF, where you can have your remaining balance on eligible federal loans paid off after you make 120 qualifying payments. To qualify, you’ll need to work with an eligible employer in the nonprofit or government (federal, state, local or tribal) sectors.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness

Another federal program is Teacher Loan Forgiveness. Eligible math, science or special education teachers can receive up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness on eligible loans if they teach in a low-income community school or educational agency for five consecutive years. Other elementary or secondary teachers may be eligible for up to $5,000 in loan forgiveness.

District of Columbia federal student loan borrowers younger than 25 owe more than national average — plus a look at payment status

How to refinance District of Columbia student loans

In the District of Columbia, 16.3% of borrowers owe $100,000 or more in federal student loans. While refinancing student loans can help borrowers save money over time, those who owe more than $100,000 might benefit more from savings.

One way of paying off several smaller loans with one larger loan is with student loan refinancing. Once the process is complete, borrowers only have one interest rate and one payment. If you qualify for a lower interest rate, you could potentially save hundreds or thousands of dollars on student loan interest.

However, it’s important to note that student loan refinancing makes use of a private loan — this means you could lose federal benefits, including income-driven repayment and PSLF. You can choose which loans to refinance, so it might make sense to refinance some loans (especially private ones) while consolidating federal loans to make them easier to pay. Consider your situation to determine what’s likely to work best for you.


  • U.S. Department of Education data as of June 30, 2020
  • Anonymized My LendingTree June 2020 credit reports
  • Federal Reserve Bank of New York Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax as of June 2020

Because the latter data is from 2015, researchers estimated the increase in student loan debt per borrower in the state using statewide data from anonymized credit reports.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

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