A study issued by the Council on Postsecondary Education, “Student Loan Default and Repayment in Kentucky,” examined the trends and outcomes of graduates of colleges and universities in Kentucky.
--Kentucky’s student loan borrowing rate for college graduates is moderate, compared to other states. Nearly two in three college seniors (64 percent) who graduated from a public or private, nonprofit four-year institution in 2016 had student loan debt. The average loan debt was $27,225 per Kentucky borrower, compared to the U.S. average of $30,100, with a 68 percent borrowing rate.
--Public universities considerably reduced their default rates over the past four years, from 11.8 percent to 8.7 percent. However, they will need to cut the rates further by 1.4 percentage points to catch up with the national average.
--The colleges of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System will need to continue to focus on lowering default rates to overcome a sizable gap between their rates and the national averages.
--Kentucky needs to emphasize its completion agenda as evidenced by higher repayment rates for students who earn a college degree or credential. Generally, rates for completers are 10 to 20 percentage points higher than rates of non-completers.
--The majority of public university graduates in Kentucky have sufficient earnings to repay their debt, particularly STEM and health majors. Liberal arts and humanities majors are capable of coping with the debt burden in the medium and longer-run provided they complete college.
State-level initiatives that improve retention, completion, transfer and developmental education for underprepared students should help lower loan debt and default, according to the report. Examples include completion strategies outlined in the Council’s strategic agenda, Kentucky’s new Work-Ready and Dual Credit Scholarships, and incorporating national best practices in loan management.
Campus-specific efforts to incentivize program completion, provide intrusive counseling, and offer robust financial aid guidance and information will also help students graduate with less debt and reduce loan default rates.