One-third of WO Poll Respondents Say Their Student Loan Debt Load Tops $200,000

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A whopping 96 percent of respondents to the latest Women In Optometry Pop-up Poll said that they had or expect to have student loan debt. Many—fully one-in-three—say that they are carrying student debt loads of at least $200,000, with 30 percent saying that they have debts of $200,000-$300,000 and just more than four percent saying their student loan debt tops $300,000.


In addition, nearly 28 percent said their student loan obligation is or was between $150,000 and $200,000.

Only 17 percent of the respondents said that they have paid off their student loan; 73.5 percent are still carrying student loans and nearly 10 percent of respondents to the poll said the question wasn’t applicable.


The amount of student loan debt is of significant concern to ODs, with nearly 62 percent rating their concern over their education debt at a 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale.


Several ODs recounted their experience of making the determination to pay off debt quickly. Doing without during that period was a common theme.

One wrote, “My husband, also an OD, and I both came out with $150k debt. We had all the debt paid off within four years. It can be done! We were very diligent with our budget and worked very hard for a few years. What a weight that has been lifted since making that final payment.”

Another woman OD wrote, “I had help from my husband and my father loaned me 90k at 0%. I paid off everything 3.5 years after finishing residency and 4.5 years after finishing OD school. I had to put my life on hold those 4.5 years and live a ‘beans and rice’ mentality. It was challenging but totally worth the financial freedom I have now. Paying it off as quickly as possible was the best move I’ve ever made.”

A third OD noted she paid off about $140,000 in two years after she graduated in 2010. “We lived on my husband's salary (he made about $40k) and put my entire salary towards loans. I worked six days a week. It was not fun but completely worth it. If there was a way people normally spend money (food, clothes, cable) we spent much less or skipped it entirely. I take pride in our accomplishment and in our willpower and sustained motivation.”

Editor’s note: This WO Pop-up Poll has garnered nearly 500 responses as of the reporting deadline, so we are leaving it open to see if we can gain even more insight. We also have a new poll out that asks whether the amount of student loan debt has impacted your career and/or business decisions.

You can take both polls here:

New Poll on Managing Student Debt

Previous Poll on the Amount of Student Debt

You may also contact a WO editor directly with your debt story, as we’ll be reporting on these poll results in greater detail in the September issue.