Study: Only 37 Percent of Students Can Repay Loans on Time

And with 15 percent of black college grads out of work, that number's likely to go up.

By Julianne Hing Mar 17, 2011

Only 37 percent of student loan borrowers were able to repay their loans without delinquency or delay, a new study found. And for every student who eventually defaults on a loan, there are two others who fall behind on their payments, even if they don’t default. 

The Institute for Higher Education Policy looked at students who went into repayment from 2004 to 2009, and found that 40 percent of people who take out student loans fall behind on their payments at some point in the first five years of repayment.

As college tuition rises and need-based grants and aid face increasing cuts, more and more students are depending on student loans. Undergrads who graduated in 2009 have an average of $24,000 in student loan debt, the New York Times reported. These days student loan debt surpasses credit card debt– publisher Mark Kantrowitz told the New York Times he estimated student loan debt at about $896 billion.

Not only are students of color more likely to depend on financial aid to get through school, but they’re also more vulnerable to defaulting on their loans. Black students default on their loans at four times the rate of other students. Students of color are also more likely to enroll in for-profit schools, and more likely to face economic and academic barriers in any arena of higher education that make it harder to graduate.

For many young people in a bleak job market–15 percent of black new college graduates are unemployed, twice that of white grads–student loans are easy to fall behind on, and also notoriously impossible to discharge. Companies have the indefinite right to garnish borrowers’ wages at a rate of up to 15 percent of a person’s take-home pay. Filing for bankruptcy, even dying, won’t allow someone to discharge their debt. Only 270 days of delinquency can send someone into default.

The report found that students’ ability to repay their loans varied based on the type of institution they attended. Students that attended two-year for-profit schools had the highest rates of delinquency and default. Students who did not graduate from school were also more likely to be delinquent or to eventually default.