Cohort Default Rate

A cohort default rate is the percentage of a school's borrowers who enter repayment on Federal student loans during a federal fiscal year (October 1 to September 30) and default within the cohort default period. The United States Department of Education (ED) releases official cohort default rates once per year.

The Department of Education calculates the school’s cohort default rate by dividing the number of borrowers from the school entering repayment in a cohort year and default within a 3-year period divided by the number of borrowers from the school entering repayment in the cohort year.

Important Note: Some schools have a small number of borrowers entering repayment. Other schools have only a small portion of the student body taking out student loans. In such cases, the cohort default rate should be interpreted with caution as these rates may not be reflective of the entire school population.

Academic Year Cohort Official Cohort Default Rate National Average 
Official Cohort Default Rate 
(Public Community College)
2018–19 (FY19) 3.30% 4.00%
2017–18 (FY18) 10.40% 11.50%
2016–17 (FY17) 18.40% 15.20%

Consequences of Default

Consequences of default for students can be severe. Outstanding interest on the loan is capitalized and collection fees may be added, often resulting in a balance that is higher than the amount initially borrowed. Defaulted loans are reported to credit bureaus, causing borrowers to sustain long-term damage to their credit rating. A defaulter may also face difficulty in securing a mortgages or car loan, may have their wages garnished, and their federal income tax refunds and other federal benefits seized. Until the default is resolved (i.e. through rehabilitation or garnishment), collection efforts continue, and the defaulter will be ineligible for additional federal student aid.