Default rates continue to drop

Photo: Matthew Dembicki/AACC

The student loan default rate for community colleges continues to drop, dipping below 16 percent for fiscal year 2016, according to new federal data.

The community college cohort default rate (CDR) for FY 16 dipped to 15.9 percent, a 0.8 percentage point decline from 16.7 percent in FY 15, according to U.S. Education Department (ED) data released on Wednesday. The rate was 18.3 percent for 2014, 18.5 percent in 2013 and 19.1 percent in 2012, which is when the department started tracking repayment over three years instead of two.

In total, about 26,000 fewer community college borrowers defaulted on their loans than the previous cohort (which itself had nearly 27,000 fewer borrowers in default compared to the 2014 cohort).

Community college defaulters also accounted for a smaller share of all defaulters in 2016 at 25 percent, compared to 27 percent in 2015 and 29 percent in 2014.

The broader picture

Overall, the CDR for all U.S. public and private colleges and universities dropped to 10.1 percent from 10.8 percent in FY 15, representing a 6.5 percent decline, ED said. For public institutions, the rate dipped to 9.6 percent in FY 16 from 10.3 percent in the previous year. Among public four-year schools, the default rate was 6.8 percent for FY 16, compared to 7.1 percent in the previous year.

For private institutions, the CDR fell to 6.6 percent from 7.1 percent in FY 2015. Among two- and three-year private colleges, the rate dropped to 15.2 percent from 16.7 percent. For four-year privates, it decreased to 6.3 percent from 6.6 percent.

Even proprietary schools saw a drop in their CDR, from 15.6 percent in FY 15 to 15.2 percent in FY 16.

Looking at states

ED also breaks down the default data, according to states. Nevada had the highest borrower default rate in 2016 among all colleges and universities at 18.1 percent, followed by Mississippi (14.9 percent), New Mexico (14.7 percent) and West Virginia (14.6 percent). Massachusetts had the lowest default rate at 5.8 percent, followed by Vermont (6.1 percent) and North Carolina and Rhode Island (both at 6.2 percent).

Related article: Is the cohort default rate past its prime?

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.