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Business Observer Sunday, May 27, 2018 4 years ago

Florida college students falter with loan debt

More than one out of 10 students was in default on a loan, according to a recent study.

The student loan crisis billowing through the country hasn’t spared the Sunshine State. 

To wit: 15,570 students who attended Florida’s 40 public colleges and started repaying loans in 2014 were in default by 2016, according to a Watchdog Florida analysis of U.S. Department of Education data. That default tally translates to 11.53% of all students who have entered some repayments on student loans — slightly more than the national default rate of 11.5%.

The situation is worse on the private college side, where data shows 17,678 students, 17.22% of the total who began payments in 2014, were in default by 2016.

One pattern in the data is the bigger schools in the state, particularly public ones, tend to have lower default rates. University of North Florida, Central Florida and USF are all under 6%,while Florida State has a 4.8% default rate and University of Florida, at 2.6%, has the lowest default rate in the state. New College of Florida, in Sarasota, has the second-lowest default rate among public colleges, with five out of  154 borrowers in repayment in default, or 3.2%, according to the data.

On the flip side of those schools, Florida has eight public colleges where the default rate is north of 20%. That segment includes the No. 1 default school, the Tom P. Haney Technical Center in Panama City, with a 26.9% rate. Public schools on the west coast of Florida with the highest default  rates include Erwin Technical College in Tampa at 17.2%; Pasco-Hernando State College in New Port Richey at 17%; Polk State College at 16.8%; and Hillsborough Community College at 16.2%.

The private college side, like big public universities, has some notable outliers. Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, the University of Tampa and Florida Southern College in Lakeland, for example, all posted default rates of less than 4.3%.

Yet more than one-third, 17 of 49 private colleges in the state, according to the education department data, surpass the national default average of 11.5%. From the west coast of Florida, schools on that side of the list include Tampa-based Everest University, with a second-worst-in-the-state default rate of 31.9%. Warner University in Polk County, Hodges University in Naples and Ultimate Medical Academy in Clearwater are also on the list. (Everest is now Altierus Career College.)


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