As with any form of financing, student loans must be paid back according to the the agreed-upon repayment plan. Otherwise, the loans can fall into default.
If a federal student loan payment is late by 270 days, or roughly nine months, the loan is considered to be in default. The standards for private student loan default vary by lender, but typically loans will be deemed in default when a payment is late by three or fourth months.
To provide a closer look at just how prevalent student loan default has become, LendEDU has created this report using data from the U.S. Department of Education to detail student loan default rates for nearly 4,500 colleges throughout the U.S. In addition, we analyzed default rates on a state-by-state level.
- While the national default rate was 10.10%, it was 15.66% at historically black colleges and universities, 5.35% at women’s colleges, and 9.45% at all other schools.
- For-profit schools had a collective default rate of 15.20% compared to 9.60% at public schools and 6.60% at nonprofit private schools.
- Nevada had the highest state default rate (18.16%) with the next highest being Mississippi (14.94%). Massachusetts had the lowest default rate (5.82%) with the next lowest being Vermont (6.17%).
- Southern states typically had very high default rates, while states in New England and the Midwest had the lowest.
The consequences of student loan default can be severe, like having your tax refunds, Social Security benefits, or wages garnished. Your credit score will be severely damaged and you may have to deal with a lawsuit, a debt collector, and, in rare cases, U.S. Marshals if you fail to address the issue.
Unfortunately, as colleges continue to raise tuition rates and with outstanding student loan debt in the United States at an all-time high of $1.6 trillion, student loan default only figures to be a growing issue.
In fact, the Brookings Institute estimates that 40% of borrowers may default on their student loans by 2023. The wider implications this will have on the economy remains to be seen, but one can reasonably assume they will be damaging.
Continue reading to see how default rates vary by private nonprofit, public, and private for-profit schools, at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Native American colleges, and to see which institutions are in jeopardy of losing federal funding due to repeatedly high default rates.
Student Loan Default Rate Data
All data in the tables below comes from the Department of Education. The data reflects default rates for the 2016 fiscal year and was released by the department on Sept. 23, 2019.
For schools that had over 30 borrowers enter repayment in the 2016 fiscal year, the Education Department found the default rate by taking the sum of borrowers that entered repayment in 2016 and defaulted in 2016, 2017, or 2018 and divided that sum by the number of borrowers who entered repayment in 2016.
For schools that had less than 30 borrowers enter repayment in the 2016 fiscal year, U.S. education officials found the default rate by summing together the number of borrowers who entered repayment in 2014, 2015, or 2016 and defaulted and divided that figure by the number of borrowers who entered repayment in 2014, 2015, or 2016.
See here for more details from the Education Department.
Default rates by stateDefault Rates by School-Type
Public, private, & proprietary (for-profit)HBCUs, Women’s colleges, Hispanic colleges, Native American colleges, & Non-designated colleges Schools in Jeopardy of Losing Federal Funding Due to Default Rates
The following schools are subject to lose eligibility for the Direct Loan Program due to default rates above 40% for 2016 fiscal year.Default Rates by School Observations & Analysis
Southern states among highest default rates, New England and Midwest States lowest
Southern states had some of the highest default rates, according to the Department of Education’s default data. Mississippi’s default rate of 14.94% was the second highest in the country, behind only Nevada’s 18.16%, which was an outlier.
Following closely behind Nevada and Mississippi was West Virginia (14.63% – 48th overall), Louisiana (13.50% – 46th), Alabama (13.38% – 45th), Kentucky (12.31% – 43rd), South Carolina (11.58% – 41st), Tennessee (11.57% – 40th), and Georgia (10.86% – 33rd).
On the other end, states from both the New England and Midwest regions had some of the lowest student loan default rates. For example, Massachusetts had the lowest default rate in the country (5.82%), and was closely followed by Vermont (6.17% – 2nd) and Rhode Island (6.29% – 4th).
For states in the Midwest, North Dakota had the third lowest default rate (6.21%), while Nebraska (7.31% — 5th), Minnesota (8.29% — 9th), and Wisconsin (9.02% — 15th) were not far behind.
Perhaps not surprisingly, for-profit schools have highest default rates
The link between student loan scams and for-profit schools has long been documented, so it came as no surprise to see these schools producing the highest default rates.
For the 2016 fiscal year, for-profit (a.k.a. proprietary) institutions had a collective default rate of 15.20%, compared to a public school default rate of 9.60%, and a nonprofit private school default rate of 6.60%.
According to the Education Department, the national overall default rate for the 2016 fiscal year was 10.10%.
While it was not surprising to see for-profit schools have the highest default rate, it was a bit of a shock to see that the default rate for public schools was so much higher than that for nonprofit private schools. On average, tuition rates at private institutions are more than double public school in-state tuition, which typically means a student is going to take on more student loan debt.
According to LendEDU’s most recent Student Debt by School by State report, the average student debt per borrower figure at private institutions was $38,186, while at public schools that figure dropped to $27,524.
Despite that, the collective default rate for public schools was three percentage points higher than the rate for private institutions.
Default rate at HBCUs high, low for women’s colleges
Historically black colleges and universities had a collective default rate of 15.66%, which is high relative to other default rates by school type.
For example, the collective default rate for women’s colleges was 5.35%, while it was 9.07% at Hispanic colleges, and 9.45% at schools without a designation. For reference, LendEDU analyzed the default data for women’s colleges by pulling a list of those respective institutions from womenscolleges.org. All other school-types were already designated by the U.S. Department of Education.
The only designated school type that had a higher collective default rate than HBCUs was Native American colleges, where it was 17.37%. However, the Education Department provided only default data on four Native American institutions compared with 92 HBCUs.
A word on barber schools
If there is anything else to gain from this data, it is that barber schools lead to student loan defaults at an unusually high rate. Of the seven schools that were subject to lose Direct Loan Program and/or Federal Pell Grant eligibility due to three straight years with default rates above 30%, four were barber schools, while a fifth was a cosmetology school.
Out of the 11 schools that were subject to lose Direct Loan Program eligibility due to default rates above 40% for the 2016 fiscal year, six were barber schools.
Amongst the 10 schools that had the highest default rates for the 2016 fiscal year, eight were barber schools and the ninth was a cosmetology school.
All data that is found in this report derives from a report published by the U.S. Department of Education on Sept. 23, 2019. The data reflects default rates for the 2016 fiscal year, the most recent, fully-analyzed year available.
For schools that had over 30 borrowers enter repayment in the 2016 fiscal year, the department found the default rate by taking the sum of borrowers that entered repayment in 2016 and defaulted in 2016, 2017, or 2018 and divided that sum by the number of borrowers who entered repayment in 2016.
For schools that had less than 30 borrowers enter repayment in the 2016 fiscal year, the Education Department found the default rate by summing together the number of borrowers who entered repayment in 2014, 2015, or 2016 and defaulted and divided that figure by the number of borrowers who entered repayment in 2014, 2015, or 2016.
See here for more details from the Department of Education.
For the second school-type table and the complete school table, LendEDU filtered out schools that were located in the following U.S. territories: Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The first school-type table was reported as it was published by the Education Department (which also published the state table) and includes 6,130 total institutions that produced a collective default rate of 10.10%.
Private, public, and proprietary (for-profit) institutions were all included in this report. Schools included ranged from offering the following degree programs: associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, first professional degree, graduate/professional degree, master’s or doctor’s degree, non-degree, non-degree one year, non-degree two years, non-degree three plus years, and two-year transfer.
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