Thousands fall behind on repaying college loans in NJ
The three-year default rate on college loans is more than 10 percent in New Jersey, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Education.
Of the 82,185 borrowers in New Jersey who started repayment between October 2010 and September 2011, more than 8,700 defaulted before the end of September 2013.
Nationally, the default rate was 13.7 percent.
Leslie Beck, principal and financial planner with Compass Wealth Management in Maplewood, said these numbers reflect a troubled labor market, but they also prove that many students fail to leave school with the necessary skills to succeed.
Beck noted the higher default rates in New Jersey, for the most part, are the product of vocational-type institutions and county colleges.
"They have all this debt, and they really don't have any training or experience to get a job with a salary commensurate with the debt they've taken on, so they have no way to pay it back," Beck said.
Atlantic Cape Community College had the highest three-year default rate, 22.1 percent, among the state's public colleges. The school's tuition rate, however, is in the bottom third among all county colleges in New Jersey.
"We're already working with a lower socioeconomic population here," said Andre Richburg, dean of Enrollment Management and College Relations at ACCC. "We're still one of the most affordable options for students to pursue their associate degree."
Richburg said the school, like any other institution, is in no position to tell its students not to take out loans. The students are advised of their financial aid options, though, and the repercussions of failing to repay what they borrow.
"They are educated before they take out loans," Richburg said.
Former college students who fear they will fall behind on repayment can help themselves by acting early and not waiting until their accounts go into default.
Loan servicers can work with borrowers on deferring or lowering payments, or forgiving part of the loan altogether. Loan recipients can also register for a pay-as-you-earn option.
"It's important that you be proactive," Beck said. "Because once you go into default on these types of loans, your options are very, very limited."