How many borrowers Default on their Loans? (cohort default rates)

Have you ever heard of the phrase, cohort default rate?


If you haven’t, don’t worry — most people haven’t.

A cohort default rate is the percentage of a school’s borrowers who’ve entered repayment on certain federal student loans (during a federal fiscal year) and defaulted on them before the end of the next 1 – 2 fiscal years.

This means that, some time after graduating, a chunk of most school’s borrowers are defaulting on some of their federal student loans – every single year! 

Student loan default has somehow transformed from being something of an anomaly, to being a rather pervasive thing.


Things As They Are Now

Realistically: while some student loan defaults might be considered inevitable, especially in larger schools, some schools’ cohort default rates are quite alarming (the national average is up at about 13%).

This suggests that they urgently need to start supporting their borrowers with better repayment information and resources (instead of just focusing on having them put a check-mark in the financial aid package approval box).

Brown University’s cohort default rate, for instance, is just 1.2%.  I would love to see that same rate (or less), across the board, for all schools’ cohort default rates.


(Please note, cohort default rates do not include a measurement of how many borrowers defaulted on their private student loans. It would be very interesting to find out how many borrowers defaulted on their private student loans after graduating — especially since these loans have far less flexible repayment assistance than federal student loans do.)

The financial aid system needs to change, but more importantly, financial awareness + borrower empowerment needs to come to the forefront
of our nation’s (and families’) priorities.


Take Action

If you’re curious about what the most recent cohort default rate at your school is, visit

And if you’d like to avoid becoming just another statistic in the “student loan crisis,” schedule a free consultation with me, Jan Miller. It’s my (very rewarding) job to point every borrower I speak with in the right direction, especially when it comes to helping you make your student debt repayment experience be the BEST it can possibly be.






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