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Ohio's Student Loan Default Rate Higher Than National Average

Ohioans had the seventh highest default rate on student loans, especially those attending two-year colleges, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Education.

The data reflect a 16.7% default rate for Ohio students for the 2011 three-year cohort, the most recent data available.

That number breaks down to 35,727 students who have defaulted on their student loans out of the 213,933 borrowers who entered their repayment period, according to USDOE.

The cohort default rate is calculated as the percentage of borrowers between 2009 and 2011 who default before the end of the second fiscal year following the year in which they entered repayment, the agency said.

The national default rate in the 2011 cohort was 13.7%, down from 14.7% the year before, the data show.

Ohio Board of Regents spokesman Jeff Robinson said the agency has kept tabs on the numbers and state policies support getting students jobs after graduation, which can help with loan repayment.

"The steps we are taking with the performance-based funding, as well as our focus on using Ohio Means Jobs and having many campuses provide intrusive advising, should continue to reduce the default rates at our institutions," he said. "The data validates the governor's passion to advise students on career pathways that provide jobs after graduation."

When looking at institution-specific data, however, Ohio's rate seems to be driven up largely by the public community college sector. Although three of 14 public four-year universities had rates above the state average, 18 of 22 community colleges exceeded rates of 20%.

Colleges with the highest default rates were Eastern Gateway Community College with 30.1% in default, Southern State Community College with 31.4%, Owens State Community College at 32% and Terra State Community College with 33.4% in default.

Ohio Association of Community Colleges President Jack Hershey said its member colleges are partnering with the U.S. DOE to share best practices in helping students better manage their finances.

"Ohio's community college leaders are fully committed to minimizing student loan default rates - both for our students as well as for the institutions," he said.

"While it's important to note that affordable tuition at Ohio's community colleges means that less community college students are borrowing to fund their education compared to other sectors, community college leaders are doing things such as providing counseling to borrowers at critical junctures to help them manage their loans."

Several technical colleges also had rates above 20%, including a rate of 34.1% for Hocking Technical College, the data show.

Private schools, meanwhile, drove down the average in Ohio as most had default rates in the single digits.

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