Student Loan Default Rates

By Ross Perez 2009/12/14

Reading about the recent tuition protests at California public universities made me wonder what student loan default rates are like countrywide. Using a data set released every year by the Department of Education, I created this visualization that allows you to see default rates at every 4 year or graduate institution in the US (that has had defaults). As you might expect, the premier public Californian universities have very low default rates: UC Berkeley managed a commendable .9% and UCLA 1.5% (though private USC led the pack with .7%). However, one must wonder if the public universities will be able to keep their excellent default record while raising tuition by almost a third.

With the dot plot on the upper left, you can easily see the institutions with exceptionally high default rates, or high numbers of borrowers defaulting. For instance, if you look at Arizona you can see that the University of Pheonix (a school famous for its online classes) has almost 10,000 borrowers defaulting. Similarly, in Florida you can see that almost a third of Angley College's students are in default.


Submitted by MBaum (not verified) on

Very nice graphic, but I just watched Frontline and discovered that the definition of "default rate" used by the Federal Govt is merely a 2-year window after the loans enter into repayment, so the actual default rates are likely much much higher, perhaps as high as 50% in some cases. Can you post how "default rate" was defined by the dataset you used?

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