In Rising Student-Loan Defaults, More Fodder for Fight Over ‘Gainful Employment’ Rule

The percentage of borrowers defaulting on their student loans has risen for a third year in a row, reaching an 11-year high of 7 percent, according to U.S. Education Department data released on Monday.

As usual, the "cohort default rate" for 2008, the most recent data available, is highest at for-profit colleges, averaging 11.6 percent, a 0.6-percent increase over the previous year. The rate for public colleges is 6 percent, up from 5.9 percent. For private colleges, the rate is 4 percent, up from 3.7 percent.

The numbers represent the share of students who entered repayment in the 2008 fiscal year and defaulted by the end of last September.

In a news release, Education Department officials used the data to make their case for a crackdown on for-profit colleges. This past summer the department issued a package of proposed rules aimed at protecting students and taxpayers from the consequences of student-loan defaults, particularly at proprietary institutions. Final rules are due by November 1.

"While for-profit schools have profited and prospered thanks to federal dollars, some of their students have not," Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in the news release. "Far too many for-profit schools are saddling students with debt they cannot afford in exchange for degrees and certificates they cannot use."

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