Student Loan Default Rates: The Truth Behind the Statistics

With the average cost of a college education nearly doubling in the past 30 years, it is no wonder that today’s average student will take out more than $35,000 in student loans to cover that expense 1 , or that 44 million Americans now owe an all-time high of $1.6 trillion in student debt. 2

As tuition rates increase more than seven times faster than wages 3 , today’s graduate must work well over 4,000 hours to pay off the debt, twelve times longer than their parents.

For some groups of borrowers – women and those with lower incomes – paying off the debt while meeting necessary living expenses is impossible, often leading to loan default.

1. Fewer Students Attending For-Profit Universities

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According to the same Department of Education report, the default rates for proprietary colleges didn’t change substantially in two years, dropping just 0.4 percent but still remaining over 15 percent.

During this payday loans Minnesota same time, the number of students graduating or dropping out of for-profit colleges and universities has shrunk 21.2 percent from 1.25 million students to 985,000 students.

2. Strong Job Market

The average weekly wage (adjusted for inflation) for American workers with a bachelor’s degree between 2016 and 2018 increased 5 from $1,193 to $1,324, or $6,812 per year.

CHMURA Economics and Analytics found that these two economic variables have a large effect on student loan default rates. 7

By looking at default rates by state and comparing them to these two variables, they found that education institutions located in higher-wage states have lower default rates.

Additionally, they found a correlation between higher wages and job security, since most high wage jobs are in high demand.

3. Lower Community College Enrollment

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A 2015 study conducted by the American Association of Community Colleges discovered that only 17 percent of community college students take out student loans, which is significantly less than the 48 percent of students at four-year public schools, 60 percent at private colleges and 71 percent at proprietary institutions. 8 Nevertheless, these students default at a much higher rate.

The findings revealed that those who take on student debt without achieving a degree or certificate are far more likely to default.

The dropout rate among community college students is much higher than four-year colleges because these schools tend to serve a poorer student base and have an open-door admission policy.

Rather than take classes in hopes of improving their ability to find a job, they moved directly to the labor force without the need for taking on student loan debt.

4. More Income-Based Repayment Plans

Plus, those that are unemployed will not have to make any payments and those that are less than gainfully employed will not be required to make monthly payments equal to the original loan schedule.

This is great news for the borrower since defaulting on a loan can hurt their credit, keep them from buying a home and even prevent them from taking certain jobs.

Students who would have been in default are hidden from view, making it more difficult to determine the problems associated with student loan lending practices or determining the true nature of the student loan crisis.

The Solution: Student Loan Debt Letters and Financial Wellness Education

In order to combat student debt, many states have started requiring regular notifications to college students educating them about their current student loan balances and projected payments.

Student financial wellness programs can help reduce default rates by teaching students about student loans and their consequences before they choose to borrow money.

A report by the Financial Literacy and Education Commission shows that students often do not know what they are getting into when they take out a loan.

They also don’t understand that certain actions that stop a loan from going into default doesn’t stop the interest from growing.

By providing a financial wellness program, you can help your students make the right decisions about student loans to prevent detrimental long-term impact.