The share of federal student loan defaults rose sharply last year, especially at for-profit colleges and universities, where 15 percent of borrowers defaulted in the first two years of repayment, up from 11.6 percent the previous year.
According to Department of Education data released Monday, 8.8 percent of borrowers over all defaulted in the fiscal year that ended last Sept. 30, the latest figures available, up from 7 percent the previous year.
At public institutions, the rate was 7.2 percent, up from 6 percent, and at not-for-profit private institutions, it was 4.6 percent, up from 4 percent.
“Borrowers are struggling in this economy,” said James Kvaal, deputy under secretary of education. “We see a strong relationship between student default rates and unemployment rates.”
Although the new overall rates are the highest since the 1997, when they were also 8.8 percent, default rates peaked in 1990 at more than 20 percent.
The new rates represent a snapshot in time, covering the 3.6 million borrowers whose first loan payments came due between Oct. 1, 2008, and Sept. 30, 2009, and who defaulted before Sept. 30, 2010. More than 320,000 of those borrowers defaulted during that period.
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