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UW Student Loan Default Rate Well Below National Average

June 1, 2011

The University of Wyoming has achieved a remarkably low 3.1 percent default rate on loans borrowed by its students, less than half the national average for public colleges.

The national rate at which students defaulted on their federal loans in the two-year period ending Sept. 30, 2010, was 8.9 percent, an increase of nearly two percentage points over the two-year rate for the previous year, according to draft data released last week by the U.S. Department of Education.

UW's 3.1 percent default rate for the corresponding period actually declined from the 3.2 percent rate in 2009.

"Obviously we are well below the national average and have been that way for a long time," says Tammy Aagard, UW's interim director of student financial aid. "Our students are meeting their obligation to repay their loans to attend UW."

The national default rate for public colleges was 7.3 percent, and for private, nonprofit colleges it was 4.7 percent, according to the draft data. Those rates increased from prior years but not by as much. Last year the official two-year default rate for public colleges was 6 percent, and the year before it was 5.9 percent.

Students at for-profit colleges, who comprise about 10 percent of the nation's college enrollments, accounted for nearly half of all the defaults -- 47 percent. A year earlier, that proportion was 43 percent.

The overall two-year default rate for students at for-profit colleges also rose. It was 15.2 percent, up from 11.6 percent in the previous year and 11 percent the year before that.

Aagard says UW encourages students to take a conservative approach to loans.

"Our low cost of attendance also definitely affects the default rate -- we charge less, students borrow less, and they then are more able to pay it back," she says.

The ethics of UW's students also contribute to the low default rate, Aagard adds.

"They are raised with values of hard work and honesty. If students default, this will follow them forever," she says.

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