Note: This is more education policy regarding the non-profit for-profit kerfuffle that is going on currently.  If you just want productivity tips, feel free to skip this post.

Friday the US Department of Education released the repayment rates for student loans by institution.  This was anxiously awaited because the gainful employment regulations are going to require that for-profit colleges and universities have 35% repayment rates to be eligible at all and 45% to be unconditionally eligible.  University of Phoenix‘s stock went up because of a 44% rate, while most of the rest of the for-profit sector went down because of low repayment rates.

However those with low rates are in good company.  Other schools that don’t meet the 35% cutoff:

  • Medical schools
    • Harvard
    • Loyola
    • Georgetown
    • Temple
    • Penn State
    • Tulane
    • Columbia
    • University of Massachusetts
  • Law Schools
    • Seton Hall 29%
    • John Marshall 28%
  • Public Schools
    • Tennessee State 22%
    • South Carolina State 17%
    • Delaware State 21%
    • Alabama State 14%
    • Virginia State 25%

(Rates are based on number of students paid in full or with a declining balance as well as how far the balance had dropped in 4 years.  To be fair to the medical & law schools, I also calculated the % of people making payments regardless of how much so far; those listed also had fewer than 35% of students making payments.)

So what’s my point?  The ability to pay back a student loan appears unrelated to where you went to school or even what you studied.  If someone who went to Harvard Med School can’t make a payment on their loans then the fact that many people who go to “lesser” schools can is nearly miraculous.  More specifically, these numbers make it clear that quality of degree and field are not as tightly related to repayment rates as one might previously have expected.

Second, University of Phoenix is achieving that repayment rate with 5.5 time more students than the next highest school.  (That also happens to be a for-profit; American Intercontinental University who is sitting at 39%).  In fact, to 50% repayment you have to go to the 5th school, Penn State (excluding the med and law schools) which has 12% of the students University of Phoenix does.

I really think that before this particular beating continues people need to take a better look at the numbers.  With an overall average of only 56% repayment, no one is doing particularly well, and many highly respected schools are doing worse than some of the for-profits.  Tarring and feathering an entire sector without looking at the bigger picture is unjust and makes it clear that this is a vendetta, not a fair and balanced discussion of the issues.