More than 40 percent of students who begin college do not graduate within six years, often resulting in severe consequences for those who took on debt to pay for their education, according to a recently released fact sheet from the Department of Education (ED).
The fact sheet’s release coincided with Secretary Arne Duncan’s speech earlier this week about the future of higher education in America. In his address, Duncan called for a greater focus on student outcomes rather than student debt.
According to ED, the higher education system in the U.S. “had focused almost exclusively on inputs – money for enrolling students – and too little on outcomes.” The focus needs to shift to “whether students are actually graduating in a timely way with a meaningful degree that sets them up for future success,” ED stated in the fact sheet.
More than 40 percent of first-time, full-time students who enroll in a bachelor’s degree program do not complete within six years, and students from low-income families are less likely to enroll in and complete college than students from higher income brackets, according to the fact sheet. In fact, only 9 percent of students from the lowest income quartile complete a bachelor’s degree by age 24, compared with 77 percent of students from the top income quartile.
High levels of student debt impact all students, but can have “even more damaging outcomes” for those who take on debt without completing their education, according to the fact sheet. Student borrowers who do not graduate are three times more likely to default than those who graduate. The median debt of borrowers who default is less than $8,900, which ED noted is not even half of the median debt for all students. The average debt for students in default is $14,500, about half the average debt of students who graduate.
The fact sheet also included some information about student default rates broken down by state, noting that the states with the higher default rates for their four-year colleges tend to have the lowest completion rates, with states with the lowest default rates having the highest completion rates.
Also included in the fact sheet were data points about the rising cost of college in the U.S., the continuing high returns on investment for students who complete, actions the Obama administration has taken to address college affordability, and schools that are using innovative programs to improve access, affordability, and success.
“Today, college remains the greatest driver of socioeconomic mobility in America, but if we don’t do more to keep it within reach for middle class families and those striving to get into the middle class, it could have the opposite effect – serving as a barrier instead of a ticket to the American Dream,” ED stated in the fact sheet.
ED concluded the fact sheet by calling on Congress to “do more to protect students from unscrupulous career colleges that deceive students into taking on debt they will never be able to repay and stick taxpayers with the bill. … For too long, Congress has sat on the sideline – or worse, actively fought – the [a]dministration’s efforts to protect students and taxpayers from these predatory and deceptive practices.”
Publication Date: 8/3/2015