The College Completion Crisis Fuels the Student Debt Crisis

College Completion Crisis Report CoverThis issue brief, commissioned by NASFAA and authored by the HEA Group, explores the extent to which college completion impacts student loan repayment. Specifically, author Michael Itzkowitz looks at the U.S. Department of Education's College Scorecard data four years after students enter repayment to see if there are differences between those who completed college and those who did not. 

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In just over a four-year period, the author observed outstanding loan balances exceeding the amounts initially borrowed for those who entered but never completed college. They found:

  • Borrowers who completed college collectively owed $3.2 billion (6%) less than they borrowed.
  • Borrowers who did not complete collectively owed $918 million (6%) more than they borrowed.

The author also found significant differences based on the sector students attended.

Public Institutions

  • College completers owed $2.6 billion (8%) less than they borrowed.
  • Non-completers owed $519 million (5%) more than they borrowed. 

Private, Non-profit Institutions

  • College completers owed $1.6 billion (12%) less than they borrowed.
  • Non-completers owed $61 million (2%) more than they borrowed. 

Proprietary Institutions

  • College completers owed $951 million (12%) more than they borrowed.
  • Non-completers owed $337 million (15%) more than they borrowed.

Read the full issue brief and examine the author's data analysis, which is offered as an Excel workbook for those that wish to conduct their own analysis.

Download Brief (PDF)

Acknowledgements

This report was commissioned by NASFAA and authored by Michael Itzkowitz of the HEA Group. The data analysis in this report was completed by the HEA Group.

View HEA Group Blog

Publication Date: 1/31/2024


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