National student loan default rates rise, while WWU’s stays low

                                       By Erin Crooks ’12

William Woods University students are paying their loans. While
the national student
loan default rate is
close to 9 percent, WWU’s is only 1.6 percent.

Maria Nozzi is one of the students keeping WWU’s rate low.
Every month, when her paycheck is
deposited, she tallies up her finances and
decides how much she can afford to pay on her outstanding loan balance.
The amount is usually around $400 and, while it limits her spending
cash, she thinks it will be worth it
in the long run.
 
I m paying them off as soon as I can
because I hate
being in debt. It controls
you, and it s terrifying, said Nozzi, who graduated in 2011 with a
degree in equine
administration. She now works at GKC Hidden Springs in Unionville, Pa.
 
The national student
loan default rates
have been steadily increasing since 2003.
Those rates rose from 7 percent in 2008 to 8.8 percent in 2009, while Missouri s overall rate
increased from 5.8 percent to 7.6 percent. By
comparison, William Woods University s student loan default rate is 1.6 percent.
 
All of these percentage rates are based on borrowers whose first
payments came due between Oct. 1, 2008, and
Sept. 30, 2009, and who defaulted
before Sept. 30, 2010.
 
One obvious reason for the increase in student loan default rates is
lack of employment, specifically for those graduating from college with
loans to repay.
 
According to a study done by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce
Development in 2011, only 53
percent of college
graduates are employed full time.
Furthermore, the study also found that the mean average salary
for college
graduates entering the workforce in 2009 – 2010
was only $27,000.
                                                           
With no money coming in and the cost of living
on the rise, it must seem to new graduates that they have
no option but to default on their student
loans. However, there are numerous
options for these students.
 
One of the most beneficial is the Income Based
Repayment plan, known as an IBR, which allows
borrowers to pay back a percentage of their disposable
income. The
borrower s payments are calculated by their loan services and
factors in such things as marital
status, dependents, income and cost of living in their area to
come up with an amount that the
borrower should be able
to pay.
 
There are several
other advantages to using an IBR, as well as other repayment plan options. Check
them out at studentaid.ed.gov.  
 
Deana Ready, director of student financial services at WWU,
suggests that the best
way to keep from defaulting is to be knowledgeable about your loans and be
aware of how much you are borrowing.
 
Complete the Entrance Counseling and
pay attention to the Master Promissory Note process
when taking out your initial loans. Establish some familiarity with the National Student
Loan Data System
(NSLDS), she said.  
 
This system tracks all the federal loans
you receive and provides contact information for any lender that you have
used as a student. Lastly, complete the Exit Counseling when
you leave school. It walks
you through your loan repayment
opportunities and obligations.
 
Erika Campbell, a May 2012 graduate already
has a plan for paying off her loans.
 
I would like to pay off
my loans in about five to
seven years. It isn t the worst situation I could be in for student
loans or debt in general, but it
is rather troublesome considering how little I make per month, she explained.
 
The default rate on
student loans doesn t affect just
students, either. Higher
education institutions whose default rates
exceed 40 percent in one year, or
25 percent for
three consecutive years will lose their
eligibility for federal student aid programs.
 
One recommended route is for students to begin paying on their loans (or
at least the interest they accrue) while they re still in school. Students
can set aside a small monthly amount that they can
pay toward their student
loans or, instead of spending a tuition reimbursement check on a sh