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Exploring Wages, Student Debt, and Monthly Budgets

How might student debt affect my lifestyle?


We provide a budget tool below to help you explore how borrowing for college can impact your expenses after college. The estimated repayment rates are based on a standard 10-year repayment plan and an Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) option that is available for many federal loans.


What do we know about 12-month earnings per worker from the US Census, by levels of educational attainment? This information provides additional context about how earnings may differ based on geography. Please note that these earnings are for workers over age 25 to retirement, and thus represent wide ranges of experience which generally impacts earnings. These data are from the American Community Survey or ACS.
Median Wages, Virginia (Source: ACS)
Overall MedianLess Than HSHS Diploma or Equiv.Some College or Associates DegreeBachelor's DegreeGraduate or Professional Degree
$41,573$22,423$29,730$36,317$55,858$79,135
Source: American Community Survey (ACS), 2016.

Median Wages by Level & Residence, Virginia (Source: VLDS)
Number years since degree completion:AssociatesBachelor'sMaster'sDoctor'sFirst Professional
one to nine years$45,200$47,900$60,700$80,400$93,700
These data are reported only in instances where there are at least five reportable wages.


Estimated Monthly Budget for Virginia (Minimal)
FoodChildcareMedicalHousingTransportationotherFed. TaxFICAVA TaxTotal
$ 249$ 0$ 212$ 979$ 360$ 225$ 412$ 103$ 52$ 2,592
Source: MIT Living Wage Project

Monthly Savings Estimates/Goals
Retirement Savings (10%)Emergency Savings (5%)College Savings ($250/child)Grand Total (Incl. savings)
$ 354$ 177$ 0$ 3,124
How much should I save for retirement?
How much should I save for my child's college costs?


Use the slider below to estimate an annual income (between $0 and $100,000)
Annual Wage Estimate:  $42,506


Use the slider below to estimate your total federal loans (see the information on borrowing limits in the footer)
Total Federal Loans Estimate:  $27,000


Use the slider below to estimate the total of any private student loans
Total Private Loans Estimate:  $0



Do you know about the various income-driven repayment options for federal student loans? These programs allow borrowers to obtain monthly payments based on a percentage of their income that can result in payments that are lower than the standard repayment terms. Payments can be as low $0 based on income and family size. These programs even offer forgiveness of the remaining balance after 25 years of payments. For individuals working in the public sector (like teachers) and certain nonprofit organizations (such as museums), there is Public Service Loan Forgiveness which offers forgiveness of the remaining balance after only 10 years of qualifiying payments (which may be income-based). However, it is worth noting there are currently structural problems with this program with only one percent of applicants actually qualifying for forgiveness.

The estimates above from the Living Wage Project should be considered as minimal. These are estimates a single individual without dependents and thus may not match your circumstance. Further, there is wide variance across the state in terms of housing costs and transportation needs. Treat this as a starting point for understanding your needs.


To explore earnings for individual majors, visit this page.