The Minnesota State University Student Association has released the results of a survey it issued in September 2010 to help assess the impact of student loan debt on its members. Because the surveys number of responses is small — just 46 responses to date — the results dont hold tremendous scientific value, but they do paint a picture of how the recession has affected college loan debt and default rates in the state.
According to the compiled results, the survey respondents — all of whom graduated from one of Minnesotas public four-year universities — currently carry an average of $32,456 in student loans. Thats 40 percent more student loan debt than the national average of $23,186.
The respondents reported an average monthly student loan payment of $297 with an average loan repayment plan of 15 years. Although federal education loans have a standard repayment horizon of 10 years, borrowers who hold more than $30,000 in federal college loan debt may request a debt-help repayment plan that extends their repayment term to up to 25 years.
These results are consistent with the findings of the U.S. Department of Education released last fall, which show that Minnesotans leave school with more federal college loans than the average student nationwide but tend to default less often than borrowers in other states.
According to the Department of Education, 55 percent of Minnesota college students take on federal school loans to help pay for college expenses, compared to 37 percent of undergraduates nationwide and 47 percent of undergraduates from Midwestern states.
While carrying higher student loan debt loads, however, Minnesota borrowers have a default rate on their federal college loans of just 3.7 percent, compared to the national default rate of 7 percent.
These default rates are measured from students whose federal school loans entered repayment in 2007-2008 and who defaulted before October 1, 2009.
The 2008 default rate in Minnesota of 3.7 percent marked a rise from 3.3 percent in 2007 and 2.9 percent in 2006. Despite this upward trend in student loan defaults, Minnesota ranks 51st in default rates out of the 54 states and territories assessed by the Department of Education.
Officials from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education attribute the lower default rates in their state to better employment prospects for graduates. They also point out that students who leave school without graduating or who work in low-wage jobs are most likely to default on their college loans. Students who earn occupational certificates instead of college degrees are also at a higher risk of defaulting.
Graduates of Minnesotas four-year private and public nonprofit universities were the least likely to default on their school loans. Just 1.4 percent of students from private universities and 1.9 percent of students from public universities who graduated with student loan debt defaulted in their first two years of repayment.