Office of Planning and Budgeting

National 3-Year Cohort Default Rate Drops For Third Consecutive Year: UW Continues to Excel

The Department of Education recently released their annual report detailing the 3-year cohort default rate (CDR)—a metric that measures what percentage of postsecondary students default on their loan payments within the first three years of entering repayment—and the data are encouraging: the 3-year CDR for FY 2012 is 11.8 percent, almost two percent lower than the previous year and three percent lower than FY 2010.

While reasons for the drop are uncertain, administration officials have credited the increased enrollment in income-based repayment plans as partially responsible. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has cheered the lower default rate but cautions that there is more work to do. “There’s no real reason why we can’t significantly reduce default rates even further,” he told reporters in a statement reported by Inside Higher Ed. “We’re going to keep working to hold schools accountable.”

The report also breaks down the CDR by school, state, and institution type. Below is a breakdown of the most salient statistics.

National statistics:

  • Public four year institutions saw their 3-year CDR drop to 7.6 percent, down from 8.9 percent last year.
  • Private non-profit four year institutions’ default rate also dropped, to 6.3 percent from 7 percent.
  • Private for-profit four year institutions’ CDR dropped to 14.7 percent, down from 18.6 percent last year.

State statistics:

  • Schools in Washington state have an average 3-year default rate of 10.1 percent, slightly below the national average.
  • The University of Washington performed exceptionally well by this measure: the 3-year CDR for UW dropped to 2.7 percent, almost 5 percent lower than the national average for public four year universities and down from 4.3 percent last year.

As previously stated, the declining CDR average nationwide is a hopeful sign for the future of student loan repayment. Nevertheless, loans remain a massive strain on millions of college students and graduates and more must be done to alleviate the student debt burden. The CDR itself has come under fire as a flawed metric; it only measures those students who default on payments and does not take into account the almost one in three borrowers who make payments but cannot make any progress on paying down their debt or the share of students at a given institution who borrow. Some in the education policy world have called for using loan repayment rates, rather than default rates, as the primary metric for gauging an institution’s ability to prepare its students for repayment.

 

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