There is a group of student borrowers who are often overlooked, but who face extreme challenges in paying off their college loan debts. They are the borrowers who drop out.
Student loan debt now exceeds $1 trillion. Studies find that college graduates have it tough enough finding a job, let alone one that meets their qualifications and training. But borrowers who drop out have similar loan challenges that are compounded by their lack of a degree, which inhibits their job prospects and earning potential.
Education Sector, an independent education policy think tank, recently reported troubling trends:
· From 2001 to 2009, the percentage of students who borrowed to finance college increased from 47 percent to 53 percent
· Of these, the percentage of students who dropped out between 2003-2009 was larger than the percentage of students who dropped out between 1995-2001.
· Those who dropped out had higher unemployment rates and made less money than those who graduated. Borrowers who dropped out were more than four times more likely to default on their loans.
These trends are even more pronounced at for-profit, four-year institutions. In 2009, according to Beginning Postsecondary Students (BPS) data, 87 percent of freshmen borrowed to pay for their education, up from 76 percent in 2001. Borrowing increased 24 percentage points at private, for-profit, less than four-year institutions. In comparison, borrowing to attend nonprofit four-year institutions decreased five percentage points between 2001 and 2009.
Student debt, the study states, can be manageable “if students reap the financial rewards of their college investment.” But where does that leave student borrowers who drop out? Again, the for-profit sector has seen the highest increases in drop-outs. More than half (54 percent) dropped out in 2009, an increase of 20 percentage points from eight years earlier.
Reuterscites Labor Department data that finds that the unemployment rate for college dropouts 25-years and older is even higher than that among high school graduates who did not attend college. A recent Georgetown University study also found that college drop outs earn about $800,000 less over their lifetimes than those who attain their degrees, which adds to the burden of paying back student loans.
“Student loan borrowers who leave college without a degree may find it difficult to obtain the higher earnings needed to repay their financial obligations,” the report concludes. “They are more likely to be unemployed, have lower median incomes, and have much higher default rates than borrowers who graduate. The long-term trend of increasing college prices is creating a growing class of students left with no degrees, but with burdensome
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.