In virtually every respect, Student success is synonymous with Concordia University success. We consider ourselves successful as a university only to the degree that our students succeed. Three of the university’s four strategic goals, for example, are directed at student success . . . enrolling in college, graduating from college, and transitioning to employment or graduate school after college. We measure our success as a university by the success of our students in these core areas.
But we track other measures of student success as well. One that just came across my desk today was reported by Jeanie Peck, Director of Financial Aid: student loan default rates. The U. S. Department of Education (DOE) is interested in the degree to which graduates from colleges and universities around the country are repaying their Stafford Federal Loans. (The federal guaranteed student loan program, authorized by congress in 1965, was renamed for Senator Robert Stafford in 1988.) The government is interested in seeing that these loans are repaid and, to a certain extent, holds each college and university accountable for the performance of its graduates on repaying their loans. The aggregate success rate of graduates in repaying their loans is measured in the “default rate” of graduates from each institution of higher education. That is, the DOE reports aggregate rates of those not repaying, or defaulting on their loans.
The DOE recently released default rates for the 2012-13 academic year. The national default rate for all colleges and universities participating in the loan program is 11.8%. The default rate of graduates from all participating Minnesota colleges and universities is 9.8%. The rate for graduates from all four-year private colleges and universities nationally is 6.3%. The Concordia University St. Paul default rate was a comparably very favorable 4.4%. Moreover, this rate is a significant improvement over the past three years for our university.
Jeanie comments: “This data suggests that although students at CSP often use Stafford Federal Loans for educational purposes, they are successfully repaying or making other satisfactory arrangements for amounts borrowed. Furthermore, the default rate at CSP is less than half at the state level, and 62.8% less than the national level. This is truly wonderful news!”
Naturally we are asking ourselves why our graduates are doing so well, especially given the fact that average family incomes of Concordia students are lower than most of the enrolled students at other Minnesota privates. One might surmise that our affordability strategies, including the tuition reset implemented four year ago, are part of the answer. We have also stepped up financial education for students, although we would like to see more students take advantage of such opportunities. Our seasoned financial aid and admissions staff certainly is helping students understand the implications of borrowing to attend college. Likely, improvements in retention and persistence to graduation are contributing to this positive outcome on default rates. And the fact that students are finding jobs after graduation may also be a factor. As we analyze the potential contributing factors, we are happy for our students that the vast majority are successfully managing student loan debt.
Many thanks to all faculty, staff, student peer tutors, and others who are contributing to the growing trajectory of student success at Concordia, however we measure it. Grace and peace to you!