Who defaults on student loans?

Not graduates from four- or two-year institutions

Graduates of four-year institutions are very unlikely to default on student loans, Clare McCann and Jason Delisle report for the New America Foundation's "EdCentral."

Instead, they say, policymakers and the media should focus on the at-risk borrowers attending programs unlikely to help them find a job, or those who never graduate.

How to reduce student loan default rates

"It is time to rethink the profile of the student loan defaulter," write McCann and Delisle.

The number of bachelor degree holders who default on federal loans is just 1.1%, according to the Department of Education (DOE).

DOE's Beginning Postsecondary Students survey monitors student loan defaults of those who began school for the first time in 2003-2004. The last time officials checked in on this group, which was 2008-2009, they found 7.6% of students had defaulted, but that share dropped to 0.2% for graduates holding bachelor's degrees.

Those who earned associate degrees also fared well—just 1.9% were in default.

However, 60% of defaulters never completed school, and another 25% earned certificates (McCann/Delisle, "EdCentral," New America Foundation, 10/23).

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