This page provides background and links about cohort default rates for reporters, policymakers, and the general public. If you have questions about your own student loans, please see these consumer-oriented links.
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Colleges' "cohort default rates" (CDRs) measure the share of their federal student loan borrowers who default within a specified period of time after entering repayment. Colleges with high CDRs may lose future eligibility for federal grants and loans. The most recent CDRs, released September 2017, are for borrowers who entered repayment in federal fiscal year 2014 (FY14) and defaulted in FY14, FY15, or FY16.
A student defaults on a federal loan after at least 270 days (nine months) of non-payment. Defaulting on a loan has several serious consequences, including adding significantly to the cost of a loan and ruining the borrower's credit score. For colleges, defaulted loans are not generally counted in their cohort default rate until they are 360 days (nearly one year) overdue, leaving a gap of up to 90 days between when borrowers and colleges may first experience the consequences of default.
TICAS Press Release on Official Three-Year (FY14) CDRs (September 2017)
- Sortable CDR Spreadsheet (September 2017)
Three-year (FY14) CDRs by school — made easier to use and understand by TICAS' Project on Student Debt. [Excel download, Microsoft 2007 or newer]
From the US Department of Education
US Department of Education news release on three-year CDRs (September 2017)
US Department of Education materials on FY14 three-year CDRs (September 2017)
TICAS Participation Rate Index (PRI) Worksheet (June 2016)
This tool helps colleges with low borrowing rates understand whether they may qualify for exemptions from CDR sanctions, based on FY 2013 3-Year CDRs. [Excel download, Microsoft 2007 or newer]
Recommendations to Curb CDR Manipulation (September 2015)
Comments in response to Federal Register notice soliciting input on topics to be included in the U.S. Department of Education’s negotiated rulemaking. Recommendations to prevent CDR manipulation are on pages 10-17, and recommendations to provide equity to any borrowers whose defaults are removed from colleges’ CDRs are on pages 17-18.
TICAS Recommendations to Curb CDR Manipulation and Improve Participation Rate Index Appeals (October 2014)
Comments in response to the Federal Register notice soliciting input on topics to be included in the U.S. Department of Education's negotiated rulemaking. Key recommendations include: preventing cohort default rate manipulation (pages 12-17); and increasing the efficacy of Participation Rate Index appeals by colleges with low borrowing rates (pages 18-19).
Protecting Colleges And Students: Community College Strategies to Prevent Default (July 2014)
Protecting Colleges and Students, released by the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) and The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), takes a unique look at student loan default at nine community colleges across the nation, and how those colleges are working to help students avoid default.
Recommendations to Curb CDR Manipulation (June 2013)
TICAS comments on CDR manipulation and what the Department can and should do to curb CDR manipulation on pages 14-19 of these comments on topics for negotiated rulemaking.
TICAS Memo on CDR Manipulation (August 2012)
Memo identifying steps the US Department of Education can and should take to prevent colleges from evading basic accountability measures designed to protect both students and taxpayers.
TICAS Letter on Importance of Borrowing Rates (August 2012)
Letter urging the Department of Education to provide the share of students borrowing alongside colleges' default rates.
From the US Department of Education
To put CDRs in context, look up a college on collegenavigator.gov to see what share of its undergraduates take out student loans (under the Financial Aid heading). When many or most students at a college borrow, CDRs are particularly useful measures of accountability and quality. However, when based on a very small number or share of students, CDRs say less about the college as a whole.
(page updated September 2017)