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 2018, are for borrowers who entered repayment in federal fiscal year 2015 (FY15) and defaulted in FY15, FY16, or FY17.

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.