Personal Finance

These are the five cities where people hold the most student debt

Key Points
  • "We were surprised that rates of debt are higher in the South than in New England," said Kali McFadden, a researcher at LendingTree.
  • People with high student loan balances may be moving to cities where they're more likely to land a job that would qualify for the popular public service loan forgiveness program.
David Kam | Getty Images

People who live in cities in the Southeast are holding the most student debt.

Of the 10 cities in which people carry the most education debt, nine of them are below the Mason-Dixon line, according to a new analysis by LendingTree, a marketplace for loans.

The website utilized data from its eight million users.

"We were surprised that rates of debt are higher in the South than in New England," said Kali McFadden, a researcher at LendingTree.

But she said it appears that people with large student loans are attracted to cities filled with nonprofit and government jobs, possibly because such positions can lead to public service loan forgiveness.

The loan forgiveness program, established by President George W. Bush in 2007, allows student loan borrowers who pursue government or non-profit public service jobs to wipe out their remaining debt after 10 years of on-time payments.

Here are the five cities where people have the most education debt:

1) Washington, D.C. 

Pedestrians walk past the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

One in two people over the age of 25 in Washington, D.C., holds a post-secondary degree, according to LendingTree, compared with just 30 percent of all Americans. And 1 in 4 people in this city have professional and graduate degrees as well.

Therefore, it makes sense that debt is particularly heavy here.

The median loan balance is $22,803, but nearly 10 percent of those loan holders owe more than $100,000 for their education.

2) Atlanta, Georgia 

A resident casts his fishing rod against the midtown skyline in Piedmont Park in Atlanta.
David Goldman | AP

Residents in Atlanta, Georgia, also tend to have more schooling than the average American. Nearly 40 percent of people in the city have completed at least a four-year education, according to LendingTree.

The city is dense with colleges, including Emory University, Atlanta's John Marshall Law School, Morehouse College and Spelman College.

The median loan balance is $22,232.

3) Richmond, Virginia

A view of downtown Richmond, Virginia
Tetra Images | Henryk Sadura | Getty Images

This city is home to a federal appeals court, a Federal Reserve bank, headquarters for banks such as Union Bank & Trust and large law firms, according to LendingTree.

Thirteen percent of residents have earned a professional or graduate degree. The median loan balance here is $21,915.

4) Raleigh, North Carolina 

Raleigh, North Carolina
Sean Pavone | Getty Images

Well-known schools like Duke University and the University of North Carolina are all nearby this city, and 44 percent of residents have received a bachelor's degree, and 16 percent of them have an advanced degree.

Nine percent of student borrowers are more than $100,000 in arrears, and the median loan balance here is $21,357.

5) Akron, Ohio 

Akron, Ohio
Henryk Sadura | Getty Images

LendingTree calls Akron a "manufacturing hot spot."

It also says a lot of chemists reside here, often graduates of the College of Polymer Science or Polymer Engineering at the University of Akron.

The median loan balance is $21,037.