Default rates in the U.S.-funded direct student loan program range from 60 percent to 69 percent at the University of the District of Columbia and Howard University -- among the highest in the nation for colleges of substantial size, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare revealed yesterday.
The default rates on the college-administered dircet loan program were released after HEW Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr. warned colleges all over the country that he might cut off further loan funds to those that do not cooperate in recouping the money from students. Nationwide, there are 800,000 defaulted loans totaling $700 million in outstanding balances.
Although nationwide the default rate is only about 20 percent, the figure as of last June 30 was 60 percent ($158,987 in defaulted loans) for the UDC Harvard Street Campus, 62 percetn for Howard ($1.7 million in default), 67 percent ($1.9 million) for the UDC Mount Vernon Square Campus, and 69 percent ($509,463) for the Van Ness Campus.
The rates were also high for trade schools like the Lacaze-Gardner school (52 percent), Washington Drafting School (62 percent), the Washington School for Secretaries (49 percent and $334,932) and places like Southeastern University (81 percent), and Strayer College (40 percent), but usually involved smaller amounts of money.
By contrast, the larger private universities like American, Catholid, George Washington, Georgetown and Trinity all were below the 20 percent national average.
Nationwide, expensive private-tuition colleges tended to have low default rates in the range up to 12 or 15 percent, reflecting the affluence of some of the students and their ability to pay off the 3 percent interest loans after leaving college. For example, all the Ivy League colleges except Columbia (22.3 percent and $3 million balance on loans in default) were below 15 percent.
The worst difault rates tend to be at schools with large numbers of lowincome students from the inner city or impoverished rural areas. Thus, for example, County Community College in Blytheville, Miss., had a 100 percent default rate; Panola Junior College in Texas, 10 percent, Southern Vocational College in Tuskegee, Ala., 86.4 percent; the City College of Chicago, 70 percent (for $1.9 million), and the State Community College of East St. Louis, Ill., 82 percent.
There were a few surprises. At Sarah Lawrience, the rate was 32 percent -- high for a college that attracts affluent students. At Antioch University, the rate was 39 percent, which financial director Robert Lowe said, in a phone interview, was the result of expansion to 15 new campuses, mamy in inner city areas like the law school here.
The University of California campuses at Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Cruz were all at 26 percent, Fordham at 36 percent and Yeshiva 25 percent. Leo Kornfeld, deputy HEW commissioner of education for student financial assistance, said he could not explain why the California schools were so high.
The direct student loan program is some times confused with the guaranteed loan program under which the government guarantees banks against losses.
The direct loan program, authorized in 1958, is administered by the colleges and trade schools which put up 10 percent of the money while the United States puts up the rest, channeling it through the college loan office. The interest rate is 3 percent, and the repayment must be started within nine months after the student leaves school.
The student is in default after missing four payments. The school has the responsibility for collecting the payments due.
Kornfeld said no payments had been made on most of the defaulted loans. The amount oustanding on direct loans in default in the District of Columbia was $8.9 million for all institutions -- a far larger amount than the $6 million figure for the guaranteed loan program.
Califano has charged that many colleges simply are making no attempt to collect the money, but Larry Wilson, a UDC official for finance and administration, said that is not true at UDC.
He said the problem is that low-income students in the UDC often drop out and cannot afford to pay back, and in addition, it is only in recent years that the United States has started to stress getting the money back. Before that, the atmosphere was that it was really a grant even though technically a loan, he said.
Among nearby Maryland colleges, Columbia Union had a 26 percent rate ($353,904 in default): Montgomery Community College in Rockville, 32 percent ($316,505); Howard Community College in Columbia 68 percent (but only $20,746); Prince George's Community College at Largo, 60 percent ($89,497). And University of Maryland at College Park, 14 percent.
At George Mason University in Fairfax, the rate was 8.2 percent; at Marymount College in Arlington, 17 percent, and at Northern Virginia Community College, 43 percent ($131,863 in defaulted loans).